How the Pandemic of COVID-19 is Affecting Immigration Policy


Border Patrol vehicle patrolling along the fence of the international border between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico

Now that the outbreak of COVID-19 is declared an international pandemic, the U.S. government has made some changes and new reforms in all aspects of the law. One major branch of law that has been undergoing proposals is immigration and international travel. U.S. President Donald Trump has prohibited travels going out to European countries, so what could this possibly mean for immigrants? It could call for many upsides and downsides. So what exactly has changed? We discuss the latest updates surrounding immigrants and how their citizenship status is affected by COVID-19. 

How Detention Hearings Are Conducted 

Hearings for immigrants that are held in detention camps will continue as scheduled in open courts. Although, many people believe that keeping immigrants detained is a gateway for the virus to spread and infect more people. In these detention centers, detainees are granted with less personal hygiene supplies and nutritious source of food. With less access to enhance health and hygiene, detainees become more vulnerable. There have been growing reports of COVID-19 cases among detained immigrants. As a result, some immigration detention centers have released immigrants and have postponed hearings to be conducted later on in the year. 

The Assistance of Lawyers 

According to ICE, visitation by members of the public at immigration detention centers has been temporarily prohibited. Only attorneys assigned to detainees are allowed to meet with their clients via window-visits. Detainees who have potentially been exposed to the virus are separated from other detainees. 

Although immigration practitioners are limited in their abilities to continue working remotely with clients, the government still requires immigration proceedings and documents to be filed in hard-copy format for the collection of detainee records. 

Remaining in Home Countries 

For those who seek asylum in the United States, especially immigrants coming from Mexico, they have been ordered to wait for their hearings in their country of origin. According to a conference held by the Trump Administration, the U.S. is in the works of denying entry to foreigners that the U.S. surgeon deems inadmissible due to the potential of carrying the highly contagious illness. The U.S. border between the city of El Paso and Cd. Juarez has not completely closed, but the hours for crossing have become minimized in order to limit the number of people traveling between the two countries. 

Some immigrants have admitted to being more afraid of staying in their home countries as opposed to contracting COVID-19 during their residency within the United States. The worry about the virus spreading within shelters and being able to make court dates has some immigrants even more worried than before. 

The Delay of Reunification Between Families 

The virus has delayed many events and situations, as well as the resettlement of children awaiting to reunite with their families and parents. This has been most prevalent in the states of Washington, California, and New York due to their populous cities. The number of migrant children held by the Office of Refugee Resettlement who have tested positive for the virus is minimal, but officials, nonetheless, are taking all the measures they can in order to impede the rate of how fast the virus is spreading. 

Where Immigrant Status and Protocol Stands 

With tighter crossing capabilities and new laws in place, the rate of immigrants traveling through the southern border into the United States has declined drastically. Additionally, many immigrants are returning to Mexico as authorities are cracking down on those who fail to obtain the proper documentation.

As the number of detainees in immigration centers declines, authorities are looking for more ways to track these facilities, such as with the use of ankle monitors and bonded releases. As of April 11th, ICE has released 160 detainees under the new protocols and identified as many as 600 more who were ruled to be especially vulnerable to the disease. 

Choose an Immigration Lawyer to Assist You During These Troubling Times 

Cynthia R. Lopez, P.C. has experience with some of the most extreme immigration cases. As frightening as the breakout of COVID-19 might be, our law firm still finds a way to help you gain citizenship and the right to practice your U.S. residency. Our law firm is doing our very best to help you during these trying times. Don’t hesitate to give us a call today to learn more about how we can help, even with the disturbance of COVID-19.