The following is a Guest Post by HRI Legal Director Chris Mansour about a letter the organization recently cosigned in concern over a recent change in policy by the Executive Office of Immigration Review:
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. joined 86 advocacy organizations and more than 275 individual attorneys and representatives in a letter to Acting Director Thomas Snow of the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) protesting a proposed change to EOIR’s telephonic case information system. The automated “hotline” allows immigrants in removal proceedings to call in with their Alien Registration Number (typically called an “A#”) and find out the status of their case, including the next scheduled hearing, the judge’s name, case processing information and the results of prior proceedings.
EOIR recently announced a change to the hotline. As of October 4, 2010, immigrants will also need to have the date of the “charging document” in order to access the system and get any of their case information. Citing increased security concerns, EOIR added this new requirement without a comment period or discussion with immigration practitioners.
HRI and other attorneys and organizations are greatly concerned about this new requirement because, as explained in more detail in the attached letter, often clients and potential clients do not have a copy of the charging document. Under EOIR’s revamped hotline, these people will be unable to find out if and when they need to appear before an immigration judge, or if a final order has been entered against them. Moreover, service providers such as HRI will be unable to investigate cases and determine where the case is in the system. This often makes it impossible for HRI to ascertain if the immigrant has the type of case the agency can handle.
In addition, the hotline is currently the only way that immigrants without counsel, or with ineffective counsel, can determine their case status. It is also the easiest way for individuals in detention or just released from detention to discover the date of their next hearing. Immigrants without this information will often miss their next court hearing, often barring them from any otherwise available relief.
This change will also adversely affect the government. Fewer immigrants will show up at the proper time for their hearings, resulting in increased confusion and extended delays in an immigration court system that is already stretched to its limits. Immigrants without their charging documents will be less likely to find an attorney (which always makes the case more difficult and less efficient for the immigrant, the government and the court) and those with attorneys will need to seek delays so that the attorney has time to investigate the status of the case.
HRI has joined other non-profits and practitioners who represent immigrants to urge EOIR to reconsider this new requirement that will lead to confusion, delays, and injustice for those affected by it.
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