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December 8, 2020

Rep. Pressley Demands Answers on Immigration Court Scheduling Orders Targeting Immigrant Children and Unaccompanied Minors

Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), expressing her grave concern regarding the recent decision by the Boston Immigration Court, and Immigration Courts across the country, to begin sending scheduling orders to many young people and unaccompanied children who have cases pending before the Court.

“These new deadlines have been established unnecessarily and unjustly by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) jeopardize the due process rights of the children who come before the Court seeking asylum and special immigrant juvenile visas,” wrote the Congresswoman. “These scheduling orders are particularly concerning considering the Trump Administration’s overt efforts to ramp up enforcement and other efforts to expedite removals.”

In her letter, Congresswoman Pressley demanded EOIR provide information about the reason for this policy change and an explanation of why the scheduling orders appear to overwhelmingly target minors. The deadline for responses is no later than December 14, 2020. The Congresswoman noted that the scheduling orders often include boilerplate language that is inaccurate or inapplicable in many cases, including an untrue assertion that the respondent has previously been deemed removable by an Immigration Judge, according to the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA NE), whose member attorneys have received many of the orders.

“In addition to the troubling inaccuracies of these scheduling orders, they also present extremely high stakes consequences,” the Congresswoman continued. “The scheduling orders state that if no application has been received by the Immigration Court by the deadline, the Court could enter a removal order in the respondent’s case. It seems the Immigration Court could be ordering children removed from the United States for failure to comply with orders that are unjustifiable and, in many cases, inapplicable to the child’s case.”

“Unaccompanied children have traditionally been granted additional protections in Immigration Court proceedings because of their unique vulnerabilities. Now, these children are receiving orders stating that the child may be ordered removed from the United States if he or she does not comply. It is particularly concerning, given the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to target the most vulnerable among us,” said the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA NE). “We certainly understand that the Immigration Court needs to continue to process cases. We share that goal, as our members also want to continue to resolve cases during this public health crisis. However, we do not believe sending these scheduling orders to unaccompanied children is the way to achieve this goal.”

“The orders can put children’s lives at risk because of the suddenly, and in some cases drastically, shortened timeframe to prepare and file their cases,” said Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Jennifer Podkul. “The orders limit the ability of unaccompanied children to meaningfully have their cases fairly adjudicated and deny them protection for which they are otherwise eligible. This is yet another attack by the Trump Administration on the due process protections of vulnerable migrant children.”

Congresswoman Pressley has been a fierce champion for protecting the legal rights and dignity of our immigrant neighbors. In October, she sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urging the Commission to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses committed by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after reports emerged of immigrants in DHS custody being forced to receive medically unnecessary hysterectomies and other procedures. In July, she introduced an amendment that was included in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to protect international students after the Trump Administration released guidance that threatened to deport students if they were enrolled in an educational program that offered courses online or via distance learning. Additionally, Congresswoman Pressley has repeatedly spoken out against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arresting and detaining people unlawfully in and around her district. Last year, Congresswoman Pressley led the fight to restore protections for critically ill immigrant children and their families after the Trump Administration attempted to eliminate medical deferred action protections.

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