For many immigration lawyers and organization that assist individuals, January 31, 2019 will not soon be forgotten. After all, it is a stark reminder of what happened on October 31, 2018.
If you're not an immigration practitioner, you might not know, or remember, why these dates are significant. After all, immigration has been a hot button subject with several high-profile issues. But after the Pereira v. U.S. 8 to 1 U.S. Supreme Court decision last June explaining that DHS notices to appear without an actual court date and location were invalid, it is alleged that new notices just started getting issued with "fake" or placeholder dates.
Immigration Court Shuffle
While issuing notices to appear with placeholder dates might seem okay if the courts were able to process the notices and send out updated court dates in a timely fashion, as the October 31 incident showed, even absent a government shutdown to blame, there are problems with the process. Despite the fact that DHS had access to the immigration courts' scheduling system since this past December, there were still thousands of defective notices to appear.
Sadly, as the reporting has made clear, the victims of the failure here were the individuals being summoned to courts that have no record of them being required to appear. Outside courthouses, lines of individuals with defective notices waited for hours simply to be told to go home and wait, or to come back on another date. And while that might seem like a minor inconvenience for lawyers who are more used to delays in the administration of justice, for many individuals, it required taking time off work, and/or traveling long distances.
In Los Angeles, it was reported that individuals who did show up with defective notices were provided new dates or a "verification of appearance" form, as well as an 800 number to call at a later time for more information.