Helping Our Immigrant Community in Light of COVID-19

Mar 24, 2020
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During this time of uncertainty and crisis amid the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, we are as committed as ever to helping our clients and their families’ access justice and liberty. We aim to do this in a responsible and balanced manner with an eye to protecting not only the people we serve, but also our staff, volunteers, and surrounding communities.

To this end, CAIR Coalition is responding to the crisis by prioritizing the following core services:

  • Adapting our jail visit services: telephonic and video legal services for immigrant adults and unaccompanied minors who are detained
  • Getting people released: Advocating for the humanitarian release of all detained immigrants through bond and requests for release on humanitarian parole
  • Ongoing litigation, advocacy efforts, and new resource samples

ADAPTING OUR JAIL VISIT SERVICES TO ADHERE TO SOCIAL DISTANCING AND SUPPORT EFFORTS TO “FLATTEN THE CURVE”

Our legal services to the detained immigrant community takes many of our staff inside detention centers on a weekly basis. We strongly believe the best way to provide legal services to immigrants in detention is through an in-person face-to-face model. Realizing that during this time it is important to be flexible and creative to support community efforts to “flatten the curve” and protect our clients, staff, and volunteers, we have made temporary changes to our legal services delivery model. Our aim is to continue our core jail-visit legal services but to do so in a way that is responsible and maintains the safety and health of our staff and the people we serve.

Our new protocols include the following actions to allow us to continue serving the detained community:

  • Moving our jail visit hotline to a remote assistance line fully staffed by volunteers and staff
  • Moving all intake and attorney-client conversations to a virtual visit model using telephone or video technology
  • Moving our pro se services to a telephone or mail-based model
  • Pushing for telephonic appearances of staff, clients, and witnesses at court hearings
  • Ceasing in-person client meetings at our offices and having staff work remotely 
  • Pausing in-person jail visits for the foreseeable future to help maintain social-distancing and avoid any risk of exposure to people who are detained, our volunteers, and our staff

GETTING PEOPLE RELEASED:

Despite the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading in the crowded detention centers, currently the United States government has refused to parole or release many people in detention, including those with medical conditions that lead to a higher risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19.  We are advocating for the humanitarian release of all detained immigrants, including those who are at higher risk of infection because they are people with pre-existing conditions, to reduce their risk of infection and so that they can be together with their families. Our staff have made numerous individual requests for the release of vulnerable individuals detained in Maryland and Virginia under the Department’s humanitarian parole authority. We are also advocating for the government to close the immigration courts including the detained court hearing dockets unless the government can establish safe and remote protocols that allow attorneys access to their clients and to the courts without endangering themselves or others.

ONGOING LITIGATION, ADVOCACY EFFORTS, AND NEW RESOURCES SAMPLES WE HAVE DEVELOPED:

Our staff have been working tirelessly to respond effectively and quickly to this changing situation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of doing so we have filed the following cases, engaged in the following advocacy, and created the following resources:

ONGOING LITIGATION:

  • Coreas v. Bounds - We filed a lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeking the release of individuals in detention who have medical conditions that lead to a higher risk of a serious COVID-19 infection, seeking their release. The case is co-counseled with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project and the ACLU of Maryland. See the press release here.
  • A.C.H.C. et al. v. Barr – We have filed a petition to stop the deportation of our three child clients, to push for their reunification with their loving father so they can shelter in place as a family during this pandemic, and to push the government to provide full due process through removal proceedings under INA § 240 that they are entitled to as unaccompanied minors under the law.

ADVOCACY EFFORTS:

  • We were one of the first organizations to develop internal policy and measures in response to COVID-19 and were one of the leading organizations to push the government to accept and accommodate remote-based jail visit services
  • We have signed on to national calls demanding that:
    • ICE and EOIR immediately allow legal service providers to remotely access and represent individuals in all detention centers where persons are held in ICE custody and in all courts that remain open during this national emergency.
    • DOJ urgent the agency to close all immigration courts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESOURCES:

  • We are sharing resources to request release on humanitarian parole with the community,  for example here.