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The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it is extending the closure of immigration offices across the country until May, amid precautions over the coronavirus.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the closing of its in-person services at field offices, asylum offices and application support centers would be extended until May 3. The agency, which acts as the core agency dealing with most forms of legal immigration and asylum cases in the U.S., said it would continue to provide emergency services and “mission-essential services” that don’t require face-to-face contact.
The agency said that field offices will send notices to those with appointments or naturalization ceremonies, while asylum applications will receive a new interview notice with a new appointment time.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced that Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) hearings in April would also be suspended. It had previously postponed hearings until April 22, but on Wednesday extended that until May 1.
The “Remain in Mexico” policy has formed the centerpiece of the administration’s efforts to combat the crisis at the southern border. It involves sending migrants back to Mexico to await their immigration hearings rather than holding them in the U.S. or releasing them into the interior. The EOIR said last month that while hearings were being postponed, the program itself was not being halted.
In its response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration has taken a host of measures to tighten immigration procedures — particularly related to public health — as well as border security measures.
The U.S. imposed travel restrictions on China, Iran and the European Union. Last month it restricted non-essential travel at land borders with Canada and Mexico.
It is also turning away all illegal immigrants and asylum seekers at both the northern and southern borders, returning them to their home countries. This week Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed the policy would include unaccompanied minors.