Some Immigration Judges Say It's Time To Close Their Courtrooms

Barbara Schwarz
March 24, 2020 - 5:42 am
Court Room

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There's no such thing social distancing in the courtroom.   

Judge Samuel Cole,  spokesman for the National Association of Immigration Judges says "It's not possible.  I have interpreters sitting next to me.  I have legal assistants.  And paper is getting passed back and forth.  You can do your best, but courtrooms are not set up for this."

He says the politics of immigration is getting in the way of what all pubic health experts are asking people to do to stop the spread of Covid-19, "which is maintain social separation and help stem the coronavirus spread throughout the country.  These hearings are absolutely working against the public health imperative and they must stop now."

The judges are more than happy to telework and conduct hearing from their homes.  He says his group, the American immigration lawyers association and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors have a united stance on this. 

A new directive from ICE requires attorneys visiting detention facilities wear personal protective gear.   Cole says that's a waste of important supplies.  "It makes no sense to take these masks and other equipment away from our frontline healthcare providers and give them to attorneys so they can conduct immigration hearings."