Cantwell, Washington Colleagues Call on Trump Administration to Reverse Course, Close Immigration Courts in Seattle

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07) and her colleagues in Washington’s Democratic congressional delegation on Thursday in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR), urging EOIR to “immediately close immigration courts across the country and extend immigration deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The lawmakers’ letter follows an announcement by EOIR late Wednesday night that it would reopen federal immigration courts in Seattle and Newark today. EOIR had previously announced that these courts would be closed, and filings would not be due until April 13, 2020. 

“As you are well aware, Washington State and New Jersey are under statewide orders to shelter in place. Reopening the courts forces people to make an impossible choice between complying with court requirements and public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even with filing by mail, this last-minute change will require non-profits and law firms across two severely impacted regions to send people back to work and bring clients in to prepare court filings in direct contradiction of shelter in place orders and the advice of public health experts,” wrote the lawmakers.

“During this difficult time, we strongly urge you to halt immigration court proceedings and extend immigration court deadlines to at least three months after the public health emergency declaration is terminated nationwide or in the respondent’s locality or state.”

In addition to Cantwell and Jayapal, the letter was signed by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA-09), Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), Denny Heck (D-WA-10), Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06), and Kim Schrier (D-WA-08).

The full letter is available HERE.