Immigration judges want to know how to handle coronavirus

(CNN)The union representing immigration judges urged the Trump administration in a letter Monday to “immediately” implement steps to protect judges and their staff and provide guidance on how to proceed amid the coronavirus outbreak, which also has the potential to exacerbate the overwhelming backlog of pending cases.

The letter calls for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an agency within the Justice Department that oversees the nation’s immigration courts, to inform employees about the plan “as it relates to a potential pandemic,” noting that some immigration court functions “may not lend themselves to telework.””As you know, our work requires us to be in close contact with the public on a daily basis, often in very large numbers and groups,” wrote Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.She continued: “Beyond our own employees, the respondents who come before us may also be at high risk for developing serious illness. Because we order their appearance and they face the prospect of removal if they don’t appear, sick respondents and respondents vulnerable to serious illness will keep coming to court unless we take action.”The union also recommended in an email to the workforce that judges keep bottles of hand sanitizer in the courtroom, use disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces and limit court attendance. The email also included flyers on coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how to identify symptoms and prevent the spread of germs.Shortly after the judges’ union sent that email Monday, Christopher A. Santoro, acting chief immigration judge, sent a note to court administrators telling them the CDC flyer “is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts.””This is just a reminder that immigration judges do not have the authority to post, or ask you to post, signage for their individual courtrooms or the waiting areas,” his email, shared with CNN, reads. “Per our leadership, the CDC flyer is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts. If you see one (attached), please remove it.”Tabaddor explained that generally judges are not supposed to post any personal items in the courtroom without approval. The CDC posters attached to the union’s email earlier Monday, however, were issued by a federal agency.A Justice Department spokesman later told CNN, “The sign should not have been taken down. The matter is being rectified.”As concerns over the coronavirus ramp up, some government agencies, businesses and organizations have taken steps to try and prevent the spread of the disease by preparing for employees to telework, limiting travel and canceling gatherings.In Monday’s letter, the union asked the Trump administration to consider measures such as waiving the appearance of some respondents, allowing for telephonic appearances and limiting in-court paper filings.Read the entire article here:

Priscilla Alvarez