Houston-area immigration court postponing hearings due to leasing dispute


A Houston immigration court location is closing its doors and the court is postponing hearings because of a leasing dispute.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review will be suspending its operations at the court on Smith Street, resulting in the postponement of hearings scheduled from Monday through March 11, according to a news release from the agency Friday.

People affected by the change are expected to be issued new hearing notices, according to the release.

The suspension comes after the new owner of the building that houses that court opted “not to enter into a lease agreement with the General Services Administration, which manages private contracts for EOIR space,” according to the release.

“EOIR expects to resume hearings on March 14, 2022, for cases of noncitizens who have representation,” the release states. “The agency will continue to postpone cases during an extended relocation. Unrepresented respondents may request a remote hearing by contacting the court.”

The release also stated the Court Annex would accept filings “until more permanent space is available.”

The court shutdown comes as the deluge of cases in U.S. immigration courts is growing at the fastest pace ever recorded, according to Syracuse University analysis of court data.

Some people in the Houston area have reportedly been waiting more than 10 years for their day in immigration court because of the backlog.

Immigration lawyer Brandon Roché said the change “adds to the overall chaos or overall confusion surrounding a lot of” EOIR policies, referencing differences between courts’ procedures.

“The rules are different for every court, and the procedures are different for every court, so it’s hard for me as a professional immigration attorney to keep up with it sometimes,” he added. “I can’t imagine the confusion it would cause for pro se respondents who are just trying to do what they were told to do.”

Elizabeth Mendoza, an immigration lawyer and the liaison to EOIR for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the suspension would cause some cases to be continued, which could create a hardship for a client depending on how long their case had been pending.

“Or it could go the other way and it could be something that turns out to be beneficial for your client,” she said, giving an example of a client scheduled for an initial hearing during the suspension period whose case is reset, giving them more time to work on the case.

EOIR could not immediately be reached for further information and comment Friday. A GSA representative was not able to provide further information late Friday afternoon.

Elizabeth Trovall contributed to this report.


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