Immigrants Risk Either Their Health or Deportation
BALTIMORE, MD – In the midst of a global health crisis, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland filed an administrative complaint against a Baltimore immigration judge who is refusing to follow public health experts’ recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Maryland Governor’s calls for social distancing by denying immigration lawyers’ emergency motions to continue, which would postpone hearings or trial dates. All government officials should follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to curb the spread of COVID-19. Baltimore Immigration Judge David Crosland has rejected these public health concerns and simultaneously is risking the health of immigration law practitioners, their clients, the court staff, Department of Homeland Security employees, and the immigration judges themselves.
“Judge Crosland is not a public health expert,” said Nick Taichi Steiner, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. “During this public health emergency, disregarding the guidance of public health officials meant to protect us could end with deadly consequences. Judge Crosland needs to be held accountable. He is choosing to categorically reject attempts to postpone immigration hearings, putting at risk vulnerable populations by forcing them to physically attend their immigration proceedings. No one should have to choose between the threat of deportation or of a severe illness that could lead to death.”
Despite arguments that we are facing a global pandemic, Judge Crosland ordered one immigrant to be deported, even though he only failed to attend his hearing due to fear of COVID-19. Crosland denied two other postponement attempts from another immigration lawyer who is supposed to appear before him later this week. Judge Crosland even went so far as to mock this immigration lawyer, saying in his denial that the judge is older than she is, as if that is a legitimate justification to deny her motion to postpone the hearing. As a judge, the wellness of those who enter the courtroom should be their upmost priority. Judge Crosland’s willingness to force immigration lawyers and their clients to enter the courts and risk exposure to the coronavirus or risk having their client deported is inappropriate, unethical, and must stop immediately.
The seriousness of this global pandemic is not lost on groups on all sides of the immigration issue. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Immigration Judges’ union, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) union sent a joint letter requesting that immigration courts be shut down across the country. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has postponed the April 28 Primary Election and shut down schools, gyms, restaurants, and bars to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many public officials are taking the coronavirus and its public health implications very seriously. Judge Crosland’s disregard for the advice of CDC, the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus team, the Maryland Governor’s calls for social distancing, and the public’s health and ability to contain the COVID-19 pandemic risks negates some of the important efforts other agencies are taking to gain control over the spread of the deadly disease.