Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley sent a letter Monday to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) expressing "grave concern" and demanding answers about recent changes to court filing deadlines that could affect dozens of immigration cases across the U.S.
As WBUR reported last month, attorneys in Boston said amid the pandemic they received new orders from EOIR — an office within the U.S. Department of Justice with authority over the nation's immigration courts — that fast-tracked filing deadlines for some of their clients. If the applications to remain in the U.S. were not filed within a few weeks, the lawyers said the notices made clear those individuals — nearly all of whom are children seeking asylum or special immigrant juvenile visas — could be at risk for deportation.
"I am particularly concerned to see that these scheduling orders appear to have been sent out en masse," Pressley wrote, adding that she fears the new deadlines "jeopardize the due process rights" of vulnerable children.
WBUR's Shannon Dooling reported in November that nearly 50 notices were sent by EOIR across the U.S., and all of the recipients were young people who came to America as unaccompanied minors. As she explained:
Such cases are generally provided special privileges in immigration proceedings because of the vulnerability of the children involved. They're also often granted more time to file for relief because there are various options available to minors, including pursuit of asylum or special immigrant juvenile visas not through the court, but through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Beyond demanding to know what EOIR is doing to safeguard recipients' due process rights, the Democrat asked the office to explain the "policy objective" behind its scheduling orders, as well as why the majority of recipients were young people who entered the U.S. as unaccompanied children.
Pressley also pointed to "troubling inaccuracies" within the letters sent, explaining that, according to members fo the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the notices contained "boilerplate language that is inaccurate in many cases."