As published in the Immigration Daily on October 6, 2022
Confusion in the immigration courts.
Does anyone know what is going on? There appears to be confusion again on appearances in court as David L Neal, Director of EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review), came out with a memo “Internet-based Hearings” on 8/11/22, that once again gives the power back to the IJ’s (Immigration Judges) on how they can conduct their hearings. Some of the points are:
- Whether the judge appears remotely or in court is up to the judge.
- Whether respondent and counsel appear in court or remotely also rests with the court, but the IJ should accommodate a respondent’s request to appear in court or remotely where appropriate and practicable.
- An IJ should accommodate a request for a witness to appear remotely where such a request is reasonable.
- A request for a remote or in-person appearance must be made in writing 15 days before the hearing unless waived by the IJ.
- If respondent and counsel are both appearing remotely, they may appear either together or from different locations. There is no requirement that respondent and counsel appear together from counsel’s office.
Now attorneys are running around again madly asking what is the procedure for each individual IJ. Previously, EOIR had taken a strong position in favor of Internet-based hearings by WebEx or telephone. In one recent incident, an attorney reported that a particular IJ likes open voice for master calendars even though her temp clerk says she also does WebEx and is in court if anyone shows up in person. Another attorney said that she appeared via WebEx for an individual hearing before the same judge; that the IJ logged in late and informed her that she was conducting only in-person merits hearings, but because it was not well-publicized, she would go forward on WebEx that time only.
To its credit, EOIR in the last week of September conducted webinars by region to go over the memorandum, but could not completely quell the doubts of attorneys that their clients could be found removable in absentia because attorney and client were not clear on an IJ’s mode of hearing preferences, or the communication equipment used or the link was faulty.
New public charge rule on responsibility of affiants giving I-864 support.
The Biden administration issued the final rule, “Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility”, in the Federal Register on Volume 87, Number 174, 9/9/22, which while not overly commenting on affidavits of support, played down the enforceability of the affidavits while stating that affidavits of support are to be considered in the totality of circumstances. In doing so, it knocked down the idea that there should be something in the rule concerning enforcement of the affidavit of support obligations and basically agreed with commenters that since an affidavit of support is enforceable regardless of the sponsor’s actual intent, the rule should not require officers who are favorably inclined to the affidavit of support to consider the sponsor’s credibility or underlying motives in executing the affidavit; and it declined to require officers to consider whether the sponsor would actually carry out the legally binding obligations as part of the totality of the circumstances analysis.
It appears that the taking of means tested benefits other than Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Medicare for long-term institutionalization are not to be counted against the applicant (not be a ground of inadmissibility) and the credibility of an affidavit of support at time of interview will be considered in the totality of circumstances.
US-Canada taking separate Covid paths.
Unlike the US, Canada has abandoned Covid restrictions for visitors as of 10/1/22 so that unvaccinated visitors are now allowed into the country. Visitors no longer have to upload evidence of vaccination and other data into a government app called Arrive-Can. Canadian officials said the repeal was possible because public-health modeling indicated the country had passed peak infection fueled by the Covid-19 Omicron variants, countrywide vaccination rates, lower hospitalization rates, and availability of Covid-19 treatments and vaccine boosters targeting Omicron variants. The US still requires everyone who is not a permanent resident or US citizen to be vaccinated by a WHO approved vaccine upon entry, which means fewer visitors and less tourist dollars. President Biden declared his belief that the pandemic was over last month and might wish to take a similar step.