Immigration courts in Batavia won’t close despite coronavirus concerns


BATAVIA, N.Y. (WROC) — As state and federal courts have stopped most proceedings due to the coronavirus, that has not been the case at immigration courts.

U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia has continued with cases and that has raised a lot of concern among attorney’s saying there’s a serious health risk.

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“Everyone is equally susceptible to it,” Robert Elardo said. Elardo is the executive director and CEO of Erie Bar Association and Volunteer Lawyers Project. He represents clients at the Batavia Detention Center.

“The whole process has become incredibly unsafe for our staff and for court employees and everybody there. It is also a complete denial of the detainees due process rights. There is no way we can properly prepare these cases.”

Elardo said the facility is still operating and expect lawyers to go in and appear in small court rooms. In addition to that, Elardo’s team can’t have meaningful access to their detained clients due to the COVID-19 barriers that facility placed and can’t adequately prepare for their cases.

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Elardo’s organization has sent letters and emails and filed a motion expressing their concerns. They’re now urging to adjourn cases. The letter reads in part:

The threat to human safety is not theoretical. It is real. A staff attorney from one of our programs has already been quarantined due to exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

“The New York Attorney General has sent a letter requesting the courts be shut down or at least allow remote appearances and electronic filings,” he said. “We also will be submitting a letter to the court and telling them we are not an essential service and it’s unlawful for us to continue to operate the way we were and we are not able to do it until conditions change.”

News 8 reached out to the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. They control the courts inside the detention center. News 8 wanted to know if they’ll adjourn immigration cases for now amid the COVID-19 crisis. We are still waiting for a reply.

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