Immigration Enforcement during COVID-19

The corona virus has affected the way so many of us do business. There is a balance between complying with orders from state, local and federal government officials, keeping staff and families safe, and doing all of this while continuing to service our clients to the best of our ability as we adjust to our new normal for the near future. Unfortunately, immigration enforcement doesn’t stop in times like these. Here are some important things for all noncitizens to know.

Immigration Courts are closing or going to a skeleton docket on a case by case basis. The uncertainty of whether a court is closed can be concerning for a noncitizen. If you are scheduled for a court hearing and do not attend, a deportation order can be issued in absentia. It is important to check on the status of the immigration court in your area before assuming that your court date has been cancelled. The courts that are open are usually postponing master calendar hearings for those noncitizens who are out of custody. Please reach out to the immigration court in your area to determine whether your court hearing will go forward.

USCIS has cancelled all appointments until at least April 1. More information about the status of USCIS offices can be found on their website at www.uscis.gov. This means that any biometrics appointments, interviews, or oath ceremonies are being rescheduled. It appears that USCIS may be scheduling emergency appointments on a case by case basis.

Many consulates and US embassies are cancelling visa appointments, including China, India, Cambodia, the UK, Canada, South Africa, and many others. If you have been scheduled for a visa appointment at an embassy or consulate, you will want to check the status of that embassy before attending your appointment.

Many borders, including the US border at both Canada and Mexico have been closed to nonessential travel in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. There are also travel restrictions for United States Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents returning from other countries, including screening at airports to determine risk of exposure to the virus. Many detention facilities, both immigration and otherwise, have stopped allowing families to visit their detained family members.

These restrictions, along with many others, are an attempt to help stop the spread of this virus. As risk of exposure slows, policies and procedures will be put into place to help ease back into normal operating procedures, including rescheduling hearings, interviews, and consulate appointments.

This blog is for information purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact an attorney for individualized legal advice.

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