Beyond the much-heralded partial closure of our borders, the offices responsible for administering U.S. immigration law have been slow and have acted in a piecemeal fashion in responding to the challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak.
Here is a current list of representative measures that have been put in place. This list is partial, and it is evolving.
- Aliens who are subject to the new “public charge” regulations (see earlier post on that subject) will not be penalized if they use means-tested public benefits to obtain health care related to COVID-19.
- All USCIS offices are closed until April 1. It is expected that this closure will be extended farther into the future.
- All U.S. Embassies and Consulates have suspended visa processing until further notice.
- Immigration forms that require original, “wet” signatures, can now be signed electronically.
- ICE has been directed not to pick up, at health care facilities, any aliens subject to initiation of removal proceedings. ICE has stated that it is focusing its deportation efforts on aliens convicted of serious crimes and those who have final orders of removal.
- The Immigration Courts are restricting hearings to those for aliens who have been put into detention. Attorneys representing those clients have been advised that they must bring their own personal protective equipment to court!
We hope for a more coordinated, comprehensive approach in the days to come. Time will tell whether these hopes are justified.