Frustration for Many Turned Away From Immigration Court
The impact of the government shutdown was felt almost immediately Oct. 1 by many people who are working their way through immigration courts.
People denied entry to immigration hearings, waiting outside 26 Federal Plaza Tuesday. Photo: Maria Zhynovitch
On Tuesday morning, many were turned away from 26 Federal Plaza, unaware that hearings and other proceedings involving non-detainees have been put on hold pending the breaking of a stalemate over the budget on Capitol Hill. Immigration lawyers say some of those turned away were on the brink of winning cancellation of removal from the United States.
Immigration practitioner Jan Brown said there was confusion and disappointment as "people turned up for hearings unaware they had been cancelled."
"At this point, people who are in court proceedings but are free or have never been put in jail are being postponed," Brown said.
On Oct. 1, immigration judges are at the beginning of a new year, when they get a sense of the limited number of green cards they can order for permanent residents who have won cancellation of removal by showing they have been in the United States for more than 10 years and that their removal would cause their parents, their spouse or their children an extreme or unusual hardship.
Immigration practitioner Steven Klapisch of Weisberg Friedman & Klapisch said his firm had three clients lined up and ready for cancellation of removal on Oct. 1.
"Oct. 1 was the worst possible day of the year" for the shutdown, "because that's when the new number is available," Klapisch said Wednesday. "Once that number is used up, judges can no longer grant any more in the current fiscal year."
Adding to the confusion is that the building at 26 Federal Plaza remains open as business continues for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That office operates on a fee basis, charging for application of adjustment of status, applications to classify a spouse as a spouse, filing for naturalization and other applications.
Maria Zhynovitch, one of four attorneys at Brown's firm, Jan H. Brown, P.C., said she was at the office at 7:30 a.m. with a client Tuesday and that, when she left the building at 8:30, some 200-plus people were milling about the building. Some were wondering why people who had appointments at Citizenship and Immigration Services were being admitted but security was denying them entry.