THE HISPANIC BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW JERSEY SUPPORTS THE AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION, NEW JERSEY CHAPTER’S REQUEST FOR VIDEOCONFERENCE HEARINGS IN NON-DETAINED CASES.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2020
The Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (“HBA-NJ”) supports the efforts of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, New Jersey Chapter (“AILA-NJ”), to enjoin the Newark Immigration Court from compelling attorneys to appear for in-person proceedings in matters involving persons who are not detained (“non-detained cases”).
In March 2020, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”) postponed in-person hearings for non-detained persons in the Newark Immigration Court due to the worldwide health pandemic caused by COVID-19. Despite the ongoing pandemic, on June 24, 2020, EOIR announced that it would reopen the Newark Immigration Court for non-detained cases on July 13, 2020. The Assistant Chief Immigration Judge of the Newark Immigration Court entered a standing order governing appearances in non-detained cases. The standing order generally provides, among other things, that respondents electing to proceed with a telephonic hearing will waive a number of rights, including the right to proceed in person and to object to the admissibility of documents. The order further provides that if counsel is unavailable by telephone at the time of the hearing, he or she will be required to appear in person at any rescheduled hearing. The order also affords immigration judges discretion to halt any telephonic hearing and require an in-person hearing, as deemed necessary or appropriate, without any due consideration for the health of the respondent or respondent’s counsel.
In response, on July 31, 2020, AILA-NJ – which is part of a national nonpartisan organization and consists of over 400 members who regularly practice in the Newark Immigration Court – filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. In the Complaint, AILA-NJ seeks, among other relief, an injunction prohibiting the Government from mandating that immigration attorneys appear in person for non-detained cases and proceedings, as statute and regulations allow the Government to permit such proceedings to take place by videoconference. AILA-NJ’s Complaint identifies grave risks to counsel and respondents posed by EOIR’s mandate, and ethical dilemmas that immigration attorneys’ are facing – including being forced to choose between their health and the risks of COVID-19 versus their obligation as an attorney to zealously advocate for their clients. The Complaint also provides tragic examples of persons who have died from COVID-19 from either appearing or working at the Newark Immigration Court prior to its closure in March 2020.
HBA-NJ President Melinda Colón Cox said: “Lawyers in New Jersey, or anywhere, should not have to choose between their health and the health of their clients and their clients’ right to due process, on the one hand, and compliance with EOIR’s mandate, on the other hand. Forcing attorneys to make that choice is reckless and unacceptable, especially considering that courts in New Jersey and around the country have adapted to the perils caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by allowing virtual proceedings. The HBA-NJ urges EOIR to implement safety precautions and procedures that preserve the due process rights of immigrants in non-detained cases, while protecting our immigration attorneys. Anything less is an alarming disregard for human life and an indifference to immigrants’ right to fair and just representation. We can and must do better to ensure the safety of our colleagues and our immigrant community.”
About The Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey
Founded in 1980, the HBA-NJ is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association that is comprised of attorneys, judges, law professors, law students, and other professionals who share a common interest in addressing the issues affecting Hispanics within the legal community.
The purpose of the Association is to serve the public interest: (i) by cultivating the art and science of jurisprudence, (ii) by advancing the standing of the legal profession, and (iii) by preserving high standards of integrity, honor, and professional courtesy among Hispanic lawyers.
Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey
P.O. Box 25562, Newark, NJ 07101
For press inquiries, please contact: Alba V. Aviles, Esq., HBA-NJ Press Secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 966-8034.
For more information about the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, please visit our website at: www.njhba.org or contact Melinda Colón Cox, Esq., HBA-NJ President, at Melinda.Cox@piblaw.com or (908) 333-6214.