Immigration Court is Closed: With Charlotte’s Immigration Court closed, all in proceedings are worried, unsure and confused about their future.
There are individuals who would have received asylum by now if their trials had not been canceled. Now, they are looking at waiting years to receive asylum before they can sponsor family members facing dangerous circumstances in their home countries.
Those applying for other forms of relief are also looking at years of delay because their trials have been canceled. That means they will have to wait years to travel again or visit relatives they haven’t seen in years, sometimes decades, including sick or elderly parents.
Backlog of Cases and Problems Exacerbated: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy attorneys serving people in Charlotte’s Immigration Court are struggling with how to advise clients, especially those who live far away.
The court’s closure cancels hundreds of cases that were scheduled to be on the docket over the last six weeks, adding to an already overwhelming backlog of cases the court is expected to hear.
For those awaiting rescheduled trials, key information for their cases could be lost before their new court date, such as a witness not being available or documents getting misplaced.
When the government does re-open, there is an increased likelihood that mistakes will happen that won’t be corrected.For example, someone could change addresses during the court’s closure and not receive their rescheduled court date notice in the mail. Missing that court date will lead to an automatic removal order, while the reopening of cases is at the discretion of a judge.
All our clients are poor and often work jobs where they either can’t take off, or if they do, they risk not being paid or getting fired. This then impacts their ability to pay their bills and maintain stability.
Not being able to tell them they have court until the day before increases the likelihood they may miss court and get a removal order. It could harm their shot at legal status if their attorney can’t get the case reopened, and it creates the need to appeal, adding more work to the attorneys’ caseloads. This snowball effect creates a drain on our resources, which ultimately means we can’t serve more people who need help.
Just this week, one attorney filed 12 motions to continue cases:
“To draft, review, print, and prepare for filing took almost two days of my time,” says attorney Lisa Diefenderfer, “I know these motions are going to the court to just sit in a box and may never even be read if the government stays closed for long enough. The issue is, though, that if I didn’t file, and the government re-opened, could that potentially harm or disadvantage my client? Maybe, maybe not.”
USCIS Has More Time to Consider Applications for Relief: One bright spot in the shutdown is that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office, which approves applicants for green cards and other forms of immigration relief, is still open.
Because this office is open, but other agencies in the immigration system, including the immigration courts ordering deportations are not, the shutdown gives USCIS more time than it would normally have to consider applications and grant relief to qualified applicants, allowing them to remain safely in the U.S. Prior to the shutdown, immigration judges were ordering deportations of applicants before USCIS could approve their applications.
Immigrants face the same Impacts as Citizens: Immigrants are members of our community, which means that they are feeling the same effects that citizens are feeling. Some aren’t getting a paycheck, or are trying to make ends meet while going without a spouse’s paycheck, just as other federal workers and contractors are.