Donald Trump’s government shutdown over a racist campaign chant is affecting immigration courts, and for the worse. Immigrants who have been waiting for their day in the already-backlogged system are seeing their cases put on hold. For how long, who knows? “Judges are only hearing the cases of detained immigrants,” CNN reports, “while other cases are being postponed.”
Miguel Ramirez Valiente is waiting to be heard. In December, he was ordered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to leave the country after he missed an October court date that he wasn’t even expecting, because his case had already been closed. Due to the shutdown, he couldn’t go in front of a judge to fight his case. Left with no alternative, he went into sanctuary at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“With the government shutdown, mail basically goes into a box,” said his attorney Lisa Guerra. “There are no judges to decide that motion to reopen. There is no office of chief council to speak with about the case. We are basically in legal limbo, waiting for the government to reopen.”
Ramirez Valiente told CNN that he fled gang violence in El Salvador nearly 15 years ago. “A judge administratively closed the removal case against him last year, Guerra said, after Ramirez survived a workplace assault and applied for a visa for crime victims,” while also helping police find the perpetrator. Ramirez Valiente said he doesn’t know why his case was reopened, but former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III could have had something to do with it.
Now Ramirez Valiente’s family languishes. “The government shutdown is tearing our family apart,” his wife Alisha said. “My three children and I are terrified that he will be deported. His children need him. So do I. I hope that him being in sanctuary will give him enough time for the government to reopen and his motion to be reviewed.”
Countless other undocumented immigrants with court dates on their calendars are waiting for Trump to get over his temper tantrum so they can try to go on with their lives, hopefully here. ”In an automated email reply to CNN’s request for comment on the case, ICE said its media personnel can’t respond to queries due to the shutdown.” Meanwhile, ICE’s arrests of immigrants have gone on uninterrupted.