Inside the Chaos of the Immigration Court System in the U.S.

After a long break, I dove back into editing for Longreads, and this morning published journalist Gabriel Thompson’s story on San Francisco Immigration Court, where he spent time last winter observing hearings and interviewing judges, attorneys, and immigrants. Of all the things I do at Automattic, getting to immerse myself in pieces like this is the most rewarding: I’m grateful to be able to work with and learn from hard-working, prolific writers (and fact-checkers!) and share these important stories with a wider audience.

The piece is nearly 7K words; here’s a snippet:

Crowded courtrooms were eventually shut down and most have remained closed to date. But inside detention centers, where some immigrants are held as their cases proceed and where social distancing is virtually impossible, the virus has spread rapidly. To date, more than 5,000 detained immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19, likely a severe undercount since testing has been patchy; and at least five, according to ICE, have died from the virus. Meanwhile, Trump has used the pandemic as yet another weapon against asylum seekers, introducing in July a proposal that would ban people from seeking asylum if they were from countries where an outbreak is “prevalent or epidemic.” 

COVID-19 has profoundly disrupted immigration courts, just as it has disrupted every other aspect of life in the United States. We long for a vaccine, anticipating that it will return us to our previous lives, where some sense of order and routine existed, where life felt (at least sometimes) sustainable. Immigration court is different. The coronavirus has essentially frozen hundreds of thousands of immigration cases. Those cases are now beginning to thaw, as more courts across the country reopen — including San Francisco, which is set to resume normal operations on September 28. When immigration courts return in their previous form, there will be nothing orderly or sustainable about them. 

I created the featured image at the top of the piece, which I display above — not bad for a non-designer, eh?

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including

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