Will the Government Shutdown Affect Your Immigration Court Hearing?

What to do if you're in removal proceedings in U.S. immigration court and were scheduled for a hearing in early 2019, during which time the federal government shut down.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

The federal government has been partially shut down since December 22, 2018. That's when President Trump refused to sign any budget that did not include more than $5 billion in funding for a wall on the southern U.S. border. Since then, roughly 25% of the federal government has been closed, including most of the nation’s immigration courts. According to a recent report, as of January 11 more than 42,000 immigration hearings were cancelled. And if the shutdown continues through the end of January, that number could reach more than 100,000.

Will Any Immigration Court Hearings Go Forward During the Shutdown?

If you are scheduled for a non-detained immigration hearing (meaning you are not being held in an immigration detention facility) your hearing will not go forward during the shutdown. Instead, it will be rescheduled after the government reopens.

The immigration court will not reschedule hearings until the government is reopened, so there is no need to call the court and ask about a new hearing date while the government is still closed. Once the government reopens, notices of new hearings dates will be sent in the mail to you and your attorney.

Just in case you don't receive the notice, however, it would be a good idea (once the shutdown ends) to periodically check the immigration court hearing information line at 1-800-898-7180. Keep in mind that the court’s work is piling up during the shutdown, so it may take a significant amount of time to get a new hearing date after the government reopens.

If you (or a friend or family member) is currently detained in immigration custody and is scheduled for a hearing while detained, the hearing will go forward during the shutdown. If the person is granted an immigration bond and released from custody (and therefore no longer on the detained docket) a new non-detained hearing will be scheduled after the shutdown ends.

Will Immigration Courts Accept Applications and Other Filings During the Shutdown?

All court filings related to detained hearings will be accepted as they were when the government was open (meaning the court will process the filing and the immigration judge should make decisions on any motions).

For non-detained hearings, immigration courts are accepting filings (including applications), but they are unlikely to process them while the government is still closed.

If you have a deadline during the shutdown for a court filing, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney to file it for you. For example, if you are approaching your one-year deadline to apply for asylum, you should hire an attorney immediately to file the application at the immigration court, even if your scheduled hearing is not going forward due to the shutdown.

Will Appointments With USCIS and at Consulates Abroad Go Forward During the Shutdown?

If you have an interview with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) during the shutdown, it will go forward as scheduled. This includes interviews for any petitions and appointments for biometric appointments.

The asylum office (which is part of the USCIS) is also open during the shutdown, for affirmative asylum interviews (with people applying for asylum who are not in removal proceedings in immigration court).

Visa interviews at consulates abroad will go also forward during the shutdown, according the Department of State.

Effective Date: January 17, 2019