The idea of court hearings done through a TV screen or monitor may have an Orwellian ring to it, but it’s how many undocumented immigrants are currently being processed for deportation, replacing conventional in-person court hearings. Understandably, this practice has drawn flak from immigration rights advocates and is now being challenged in court by the Legal Aid Society, the Brooklyn Defender Services, and Bronx Defenders.
The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of seven undocumented immigrants, argues that in-person hearings had long helped ensure that detained immigrants were granted the opportunity to have fair and full access to the courts in order to participate in their deportation proceedings. The plaintiffs add that the ICE NY Field Office had never before broadly refused to produce individuals for in-person hearings.
Moreover, the switch to CCTV-only hearings at the Varick Street Immigration Court in New York City in June last year happened without warning.