|U.S. immigration courts sharply scaled back operations Monday but have stopped well short of a total shutdown demanded by employees, including judges and government attorneys.
Wearing face masks, about 30 asylum seekers who had been waiting in Mexico were escorted by authorities into a federal building in El Paso, Texas, some carrying children.
They reported, as instructed, to a border crossing at 4 a.m. Monday and were driven to the court in white vans. Journalists were barred from the courtroom on the grounds that it was too crowded.
A lawyer who attended said the judge appeared by video conference, and few, if any migrants wore masks once the hearing began.
“All of the benches are taken up,” Imelda Maynard said. “Most of the children are asleep in their parent’s arms.”
The Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review late Sunday postponed preliminary hearings for people who aren’t in custody through April 10. While significant, the order doesn’t extend to courts in immigration detention centers or to the government’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in the U.S. It also didn’t apply to final hearings which determine whether migrants are granted asylum.