Young Center Calls for Immediate Halt of Children's Immigration Court Proceedings in Light of COVID-19

Monday, March 16, 2020

Washington, D.C., March 16, 2020— On Friday, Young Center Child Advocates spent eight hours in a Texas immigration courtroom with children who are in federal custody awaiting release to family. Under the best of circumstances, these prolonged court hearings are stressful and confusing for children. They are even harder for children, Child Advocates, and attorneys who worry that children are at heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. Although the Department of Justice recently cancelled initial hearings for immigrants who are not detained, the agency has insisted on moving forward with hearings for detained immigrants, including children in ORR custody. The agency has done so over the objection of the Immigration Judge’s Union, which is also calling for the cessation of hearings. 

We join our allies in immigrant and children's rights organizations in calling for an immediate halt to all immigration court proceedings, including and especially those impacting children, unless there is an urgent need for the hearing. As organizations and schools across the country close for all but emergency cases to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, immigration courts must follow suit. Children come in contact with many people in immigration court—those providing transportation, security guards, others appearing for court, attorneys, and judges. Children also come into contact with many common surface areas, including metal detectors, crowded waiting room benches, and courtroom tables shared by many people. Requiring children to come into crowded courtrooms risks their health and safety by exposing them and their caretakers.