Immigration courts ordered to remove coronavirus information posters
The posters, both in English and Spanish, were encouraged by the National Association for Immigration Judges in the absence of official guidance from the Department of Justice.
In the midst of the country’s worst disease panic since the swine flu, the Trump administration continues to do some baffling things against curbing the spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19.
On Monday, March 9, the National Association for Immigration Judges (NAIJ) — a body that represents immigration judges across the country — sent a memo out to judges encouraging them to hang two posters from the Centers of Disease and Control in their courts about the coronavirus.
The memo also offered further best practices for courts to curb the potential spread of COVID-19 among judges, other staff and the public.
It came in the absence of concrete guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on how to approach the coronavirus outbreak in immigration courts across the country.
However, not long after the memo was sent, an order was passed down by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to remove the posters.
In an email obtained by legal news site, Law & Crime, EOIR Deputy Chief Immigration Judge Christopher Santoro wrote that immigration judges “do not have the authority to post, or ask you to post, signage for their individual courtrooms or the waiting areas.”
“Per our leadership, the CDC flyer is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts. If you see one (attached) please remove it,” he continued.
The leadership Santoro refers to is the DOJ, part of the executive branch, under the direction of the Trump administration.
A spokesperson for the DOJ later told CNN, “the sign should not have been taken down. The matter is being rectified.”
In the immediate aftermath of the EOIR’s orders, NAIJ let the public know of its predicament via a now-viral tweet:
EOIR has ordered immigration court staff to remove CDC posters designed to slow spread of coronavirus.
No, this is not a parody account.
— Immigration Judges (NAIJ) (@Imm_Judges_NAIJ) March 9, 2020
Judge Ashley Trabbador, president of NAIJ, expressed confusion and frustration at the administration’s inaction to the Miami Herald.
“Frankly, it is baffling to us why EOIR is failing to take any concrete steps, consistent with the CDC and the [U.S. Office of Personnel Management], to safeguard the health of its employees and the public,” she said. “It appears that it is taking an ostrich approach of sticking one’s head in the sand and hoping it would all go away.”
With the coronavirus spreading more rapidly by the day within the U.S., many government leaders and organizations are banning or canceling large events to try to stop its spread.
More and more businesses are also mandating their employees work from home and schools are being canceled to switch to an online classroom setup.
Immigration courts present a conundrum for officials regarding the spread of coronavirus because the system is inundated with those needing cases resolved.
According to data collected by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which tracks immigration court data, the backlog of immigration cases in the U.S. is now 1.3 million.
It means the courts are ripe for becoming centers of disease spread, like the coronavirus, because of the sheer amount of people that go to them on a daily basis.
That is unless a concrete plan is put in place.