Boston Immigration Court Closes For 1st Time During Crisis After Attorney Reports COVID-19 Contact

Susan Church. (Stephan Savoia/AP/File)
Susan Church. (Stephan Savoia/AP/File)

Federal immigration court in Boston is closed Friday for all hearings. It's the first time the court has closed since the pandemic hit.

Attorneys and immigration judges have been calling for a nationwide closure of the
immigration courts for weeks, but it wasn't until an attorney reported direct contact with a person who's tested positive for the virus that the federal government closed Boston's court.

Though immigration hearings for people who are not detained have been suspended for weeks, Boston's immigration court has remained open for the hearings of people currently detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

On Monday, Susan Church, a Cambridge-based immigration attorney, attended court for a client's hearing.

On Thursday, Church found out a family member who lives with her tested positive for COVID-19. Church reported the results to the immigration court the same day.

"I have now exposed two individuals who are detainees, I've likely exposed judges, I've likely exposed court clerks," she told WBUR. "My question really is why are the courts still open?"

Hours after Church reported her contact, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the federal agency in charge of immigration courts, tweeted Boston would be closed Friday.

The government has not confirmed the reason for the closure.

Last month, an immigration judge in Boston took it upon herself to temporarily close her own courtroom, announcing publicly that someone with a presumed positive case of COVID-19 had recently been in her courtroom.

Shannon Dooling Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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