CLINIC Comments on changes to EOIR 1-800 Line
In a letter to Thomas G. Snow, acting director the Executive Office for Immigration Review, CLINIC expressed concern over the agency's proposed change to the telephone system that is available to individuals in removal proceedings.
To read the letter click here.
August 19, 2010
The Honorable Thomas G. Snow
U.S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2600
Falls Church, VA 22041
Dear Judge Snow and Ms. Stutman:
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC) is extremely concerned about the change in the telephonic system announced on Aug. 16, 2010 that requires information from the charging document to be presented in order to obtain information.
The change will sharply limit the ability of our nearly 300 affiliate offices around the country to provide clients and their families with the most basic information and services, as well as negatively impact the work of pro bono counsel and placement programs, including CLINIC’s National Pro Bono Project for Children. We appreciate the need to enhance security measures with regard to individuals’ personal information; however, the result of the additional requirement will be that our advocates, clients, and their families will be ill-informed about and unprepared for their legal proceedings.
One of the most common reasons that advocates and individuals call the 800 number is to learn whether a Notice to Appear (NTA) has been issued. The new policy requires that an individual will not be able to access information until he or she already knows he or she is in proceedings. Individuals will have to provide information from the NTA in order to access any of their information. Legal representatives will also be affected – they will no longer have the ability to learn quickly about pending proceedings against a client or potential client or verify last minute re-scheduling of a case. Legal representatives also use this tool to verify case (and appeal) procedural history in a manner that is more expeditious than a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Even when an individual knows that an NTA has been issued, it is not uncommon for him or her to have lost the original charging document. This is especially true of older cases, especially those under Orders to Show Cause, which are seldom available.
Detainees are routinely not in possession of their NTAs, because either the documents are never served on them, or once they are served, they are taken from the individual and placed in storage with his or her personal property, from which it can be extremely difficult to retrieve.
As a result of the new procedure, we fear that individuals and representatives will turn to the courts to find the information they seek. The courts will then be overwhelmed with inquiries for info that would normally have been obtained from the 800 number. Representatives will have to request more continuances in order to properly prepare for their hearings if they do not learn about the charges or proceedings until the first Master Calendar hearing.
The work of pro bono placement agencies will be hindered by their inability to obtain NTAs and therefore case information for the high volume of cases referred to them by outside organizations. CLINIC’s National Pro Bono Project for Children currently has over 500 cases waiting to be placed with pro bono counsel. Many of these files did not include charging documents when referred to CLINIC; obtaining case information about each of them will be substantially more difficult and time consuming under the new process, delaying the prioritization of cases for placement and potentially impacting the child’s ability to obtain relief. Additionally, pro bono counsel will have difficulty obtaining hearing dates if the NTA is not forwarded to them from the referral agency.
In addition, the new system is inconsistent with other agencies’ privacy and security measures for gathering immigrants’ information. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Online Detainee Locator System only requires that an A# and country of origin be provided to locate immigration detainees. The EOIR case information system should not be more restrictive than the DHS Detainee Locator.
We ask that you reconsider the information that is required to obtain information telephonically, before the October 4 implementation of the new requirement. The information from the charging document should be replaced by something to which the individuals and their families and representatives have easier access, such as the individual’s country of origin, as in the DHS system.
We look forward to further discussing this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Allison Posner, CLINIC’s Director of Advocacy, with any comments or concerns. She can be reached at 202-635-2567 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maria M. Odom