An immigration reform activist and former immigration judge sees no need shut down immigration courts amid the coronavirus crisis.
While many daily activities have grinded to a halt in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is resisting pleas from immigration judges and attorneys to stop in-person hearings and shutter all immigration courts. They say the most pressing hearings can be done by phone so immigrants are not stuck in detention indefinitely.
Immigration attorneys and judges have taken to wearing swim goggles or masks in court, and while immigration courts in places like New York, New Jersey, and Colorado have been temporarily shut down in the past week, most of the 68 U.S. immigration courts are still holding hearings.
"Keeping those courts open and having those cases proceed is important so we can get those decisions made as quickly as possible," submits Art Arthur, a resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies. "From a legal perspective and from a logistical perspective, it actually makes sense to have those courts open."
Arthur speaks on this from experience.
"I was a judge in a detain court, so I probably have more experience on this than most people. With due respect to my colleagues who are still on the bench, nobody really came that close to me or was allowed to come that close," he accounts. "With respect to concerns by government attorneys or private attorneys, there's not a lot of close contact in immigration courts, so those are logistical issues to be worked out but not a reason to close down the courts per se."
Arthur says he considers the immigration courts a critical activity that should remain open with appropriate safeguards, as it is a critical activity.