Judge Slaps Down Lawsuit Seeking Coronavirus Curbs on Immigration Courts

Asylum seekers wearing protective masks walk towards their appointment with US authorities at El Chaparral crossing port on the US/Mexico Border in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on February 29, 2020. - Mexico's Health Ministry confirmed the country's third case of coronavirus. (Photo by Guillermo Arias / AFP) (Photo by …
GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge quashed a lawsuit that could have allowed migrants and lawyers to prevent hearings in the immigration courts, according to a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The result is another win for the administration in its back-and-forth legal war with the many pro-migration groups who oppose President Donald Trump’s successful clampdown on illegal migration.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center and Portland-based Innovation Law Lab, among others, sued the Trump administration over what they say is a patchwork of confusing and inconsistent measures that put the public at risk during a global pandemic,” said a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB). The report continued:

During the hearing — held via telephone to adhere to the federal court system’s own social distancing orders — immigration advocates said they needed a temporary restraining order to prevent people from being compelled to show up at court if they’re worried about contracting COVID-19. They also raised issues with the immigration court system’s ability and willingness to hold remote hearings, as well as practices in some courts where immigration detainees are often moved in large groups.

The plea likely would have allowed migrants or their lawyers to stop deportation proceedings by refusing to appear because of fears over the virus spread. The lawsuit was rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Karin Immergut, according to the OPB report:

“The COVID-19 global pandemic is very serious issue,” Immergut said. “I don’t mean to minimize the concerns raised.” Immergut urged flexibility on the part of immigration courts to evolve during the crisis, “as we’re all having to do.”

The immigration centers have taken a wide variety of measures to minimize the impact of the disease. They have reduced the inflow of potentially sick migrants crossing the border, accelerated the homeward return of migrants, and adopted various separation and sanitation measures in the crowded detention centers.

The defeat comes as many pro-migration groups are citing the coronavirus danger to shut down migration centers and the courts.

“Despite three weeks of intense pleading to close all 69 courts—across a united front of immigration lawyers, the union representing lawyers for ICE, and the immigration judges’ union—more than two-thirds of them remain open,” said a report in a pro-migration legal website, TheAppeal.org. The headline read: “Lawyers, judges, and advocates for migrant children wonder what it will take to close all 69 immigration courts. ‘I hope that it won’t take a death, but I worry that it will,’ one lawyer said.”

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