Just as the COVID-19 cases across the country are rising to new highs the Department of Homeland Security is reopening immigration courts to address the large backlog of removal proceedings. Immigration courts are normally held in crowded rooms where people (the respondent) gather and wait for his or her case to be called by the judge. Often it is not just the respondent tin the court room but their close relatives, witnesses, attorneys and translators. A respondent subject to the court proceeding has to be in the court room early and be ready to stand up when his or her name is called. Failure to be present when the name is called will result in the judge ordering removal of the respondent. Some judges will not make exceptions to this practice even when the respondent entered the court room a few minutes late.
The push to reopen the court rooms by the government creates an unacceptable risk of spreading COVID-19. The move is opposed by judges, staff and attorneys as well as unacceptable given the rise of COVID-19 cases wherever businesses have opened too soon. The court room is not like a bar or restaurant that people can choose to stay away from. Respondents must appear in court or face removal from the United States.