In an interview with Documented, the Supervising Attorney of the Federal Practice in Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit, Julie Dona, said that Legal Aid, with support from 32 other organizations, is calling on the federal government to change U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policy of deporting immigrants before they have an opportunity to file petitions for review and seek judicial stays of removal.
ICE’s increased rate of transferring immigrant detainees across the U.S. has made the issue a more pressing concern for attorneys representing these immigrants as well as their families, Dona explained. The New York ICE Field Office has been detaining individuals and then placing them in immigration proceedings in other parts of the country where “they don’t have access to counsel. They don’t have access to their families and their networks. So they’re really cut off,” Dona told Documented.
This compounds the challenges individuals face in preparing and filing a stay motion, as well as filing it timely with the Second Circuit court if they are detained in other states like Louisiana and Texas — which are the top two states with the most ICE detainees.
In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Legal Aid Society, advocates, clinics, and legal services organizations are asking the federal government to institute an automatic 30-day stay of removal following the issuance of a Board decision — which is consistent with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, where congress determined that immigrants might reasonably require 30 days to prepare and file a petition for review — essentially a form. If approved, it will bring a change in ICE’s policy of deporting immigrants before they have an opportunity to file petitions for review and seek judicial stays of removal.
Due process violations in removal proceedings has long been a challenge for immigrants and their legal representatives.
For instance, ICE placed lawful permanent resident Mario Alejos-Perez in removal proceedings within two days after the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a decision dismissing his appeal. However, Alejos-Perez’ counsel did not receive a copy of the Board’s decision until the day after Mr. Alejos-Perez was removed. In 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Mr. Alejos-Perez’s petition for review, reversed the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision, and sent the case back to the Board, which automatically made him entitled to stay in the country pending the Board’s reconsideration of his case.
“Oftentimes, we never hear about some of those cases,” Dona told Documented. “ICE is detaining people and then whisking them away to immigration jails that are far from their access to counsel and far from their networks, they have to proceed with that process on their own. If they need to file an appeal to any circuit, they have fewer resources to do that. And it’s just all the more challenging for the reasons we laid out in the letter.”