New York Attorney General Letitia James

New York Attorney General Letitia James has called on US Attorney General William Barr, as well as members of New York's immigration courts, to take action and stop the further spread of COVID-19 by immediately halting in-person immigration hearings for the Caribbean and other nationals.

James wants Barr and the immigration courts to move instead to telephonic hearings and electronic filings.
In a letter to Barr and immigration judges and court administrators across New York State, James cites the need for protecting practitioners and staff at the state's immigration courts after members of several organizations that provides free legal representation to indigent non-citizens, such as Caribbean nationals, at these courts, have reported COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to an individual with the virus.

“During this national public health emergency, it is incumbent upon us all to mitigate the spread of this novel virus,” said James in her letter.

“Court administrations at the state and federal level have instituted protocols that allow court business to continue but also safeguard the public health, including closing non-essential parts of the court and adjourning new trials. A similar approach is appropriate and warranted in immigration courts.”

James said numerous organizations — including the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, and the ECBA (Erie County Bar Association) Volunteer Lawyers Project — have reported the risks posed to all in the community by continuing to hold in-person court hearings.