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Immigration Court Closures are Leaving Cases Unheard

U.S. immigration courts have been shut down for over a year, leaving 146,000 cases still pending in New York.

This summary was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

Ghassen Tabbel fell in love with the culture of New York City and moved from Tunisia to the U.S. almost a decade ago. Ever since then, he’s been trying to get legal permission to live in the city. After overstaying his tourist visa, Tabbel applied for asylum due to religious persecution, though he didn’t think his case was strong enough to win. But he hasn’t had a chance to find out, as his court date was scheduled at the beginning of the pandemic and was eventually canceled. NYC immigration courts have been shut down for over a year, shifting many hearings to remote. Roughly 146,000 cases remain pending in New York with 1.3 million nationwide, according to Syracuse University. Spectrum News 

In other local immigration news…

NJ Undocumented Immigrants Can Officially Obtain Driver’s Licenses

Undocumented immigrants in New Jersey are officially eligible to receive driver’s licenses. A bill to allow this was approved by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2019 and was originally supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. At the time of the bill’s signing, Murphy said it would “decrease the number of uninsured drivers and increase safety on our roads.” The state will join New York, Utah and California as states that allow undocumented immigrants to have driver’s licenses. PIX11 

Brooklyn Thoroughfare Co-Named After Haitian Immigrant

New York City councilmember Dr. Mathieu Eugene represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, which is predominately Caribbean. He coordinated with the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens to co-name Church Avenue as Pierre Toussaint Boulevard. After a naming ceremony this week, Eugene said Saint Pierre Toussaint was a slave in Haiti, but came to New York City and helped fund Catholic Charities to help immigrants. Eugene went on to say when he looks at Pierre Toussaint’s life, he feels “empowered and inspired, because he was enslaved and came to this country as an immigrant like myself.” Jamaica Observer 

IRS Backlogs May Be Why Undocumented Residents Cannot Receive COVID-19 Aid

New York Democratic lawmakers say thousands of undocumented residents are unable to receive COVID-19 relief because of application backlogs for tax IDs. Albany legislators last month passed the Excluded Workers Fund for New Yorkers who didn’t receive COVID-19 related aid due to immigration status. But U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa said about 4,000 undocumented New Yorkers eligible for the fund haven’t been able to access it because the IRS is taking 17 weeks to process the tax ID applications. Excluded Workers Fund applicants must prove they pay taxes, and Individual Taxpayer Identification is a way to do that. The New York Daily News

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