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Immigration hearings postponed again to prevent COVID-19 in court

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BROWNSVILLE, Texas (CBS 4) – All Migrant Protection Protocol hearings have been postponed by the Department of Homeland Security due to COVID-19 concerns. 

This is the second time the agency has pushed back immigration hearings, but not everyone is pleased with it. 

“It’s just made a bad situation, even worse,” said Alex Martinez, a local immigration attorney with clients under the Migrant Protection Protocol, better known as MPP. 

Martinez said the changes are hard to understand and cause confusion among clients. 

“They’re saying everything has been suspended up until June 19th and on June 22nd they’ll have a new date, but you’re supposed to show up 30 days after your last notice of hearing, I think I already lost you with that alone, so imagine a person who doesn’t understand the language, who’s not educated, and doesn’t know how to read the law, imagine how disadvantage those individuals are,” said Martinez.

DHS also announced that asylum seekers will no longer need to present themselves at a port of entry in an effort to protect the safety of them, CBP officers, attorneys, and others during this health crisis.

In a joint statement DHS and EOIR said: 

“The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security continue to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting in-person interaction. To this end, the Departments have made the following adjustments to the temporary postponement of Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) hearings.

Beginning May 10th, in-person document service will be suspended immediately until June 8th, alleviating the need for aliens to travel within Mexico to a U.S. port of entry during this one-month suspension period. DHS and EOIR are deeply committed to ensuring the health and safety of aliens, our frontline officers, immigration court professionals, and our citizens.

All MPP hearings will remain postponed through, and including, June 19th. Individuals with a hearing date prior to June 22nd should present themselves at the port of entry identified on their tear sheet one month later than the date indicated on their most recently noticed date. For example, if the hearing date is May 10th, individuals should present themselves on June 10th.

For individuals with a hearing date of June 22nd or after, there is no change in procedures and individuals should report as instructed on their tear sheets. 

The Departments are committed to proceeding with MPP hearings as expeditiously as possible and will continue to review conditions related to COVID-19 to make further determinations as necessary. For updated information on immigration courts in English and Spanish please visit: portal.eoir.justice.gov/infosystem or call the Department of Justice’s electronic phone system: 1-800-898-7180.”

Martinez said the confusion will cost many their day in court. “They have announced that individuals should go to the port of entry 30 days after their last notice of hearing in order to get their new hearing date, normally individuals go the date of the hearing and in this circumstance, it has created a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration,” said Martinez, “If you do not show up at your date of hearing, you will have what’s known as a removal order, in other words you lost your chance to fight your case. 

Martinez suggests for those that want to know more about their immigration hearing date or that of their loved one or client, use the DHS electronic phone system at 1-800-898-7180. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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