Demonstrators protest outside the US Citizenship and Immigration Service office in Miami, on February 20, 2021, demanding that the administration of US President Joe Biden cease deporting Haitian immigrants back to Haiti. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

A suite of new deportation rules issued by the Biden government’s U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has immigration assistants and lawyers outraged because of a drop in transparency and increase in prospective punishment.

On Feb. 24, the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) issued revised terms and conditions for usage of the online EOIR Courts & Appeals System (ECAS). The government’s issuance of the new rules did not garner a press release or other form of statement.

The rules include rigorous guidelines on immigration law professionals aiming to maintain their clients from being deported. Simultaneously, however, the government is given broad flexibility, leeway and the capability to punish attorneys for various infractions.

Going forward, all ECAS users have to agree to use the system for each and every instance where the technology could be used.

In the new rules:

The user acknowledges that the next and agrees to:

Participate in electronic filing through ECAS for all cases that begin after the ECAS rollout date in engaging court locations or the [Board of Immigration Appeals]. Selection of only specific cases for digital filing following the ECAS rollout date in a participating court place or the BIA is illegal (i.e., use of electronic filing for a number of instances and ongoing to file paper records for many others ).

Another section claims that EOIR reserves the right to”eliminate a specific case from digital filing” in their own leisure. To put it differently, the authorities can take a case away from the ECAS system with no stated reason. Immigration law practitioners can’t do exactly the same–even if there’s an arguable reason for them to achieve that.

Immigration attorney and legal expert Matthew Hoppock took note of the apparently discordant new rules through Twitter.

“EOIR’s new ECAS terms of service: consumers have to promise to use e-filing on each case where it’s accessible, no exceptions,” he noted. “However, EOIR reserves the right to’remove a specific situation from electronic filing’ without explanation.

The new stipulations also pose possible deadline issues for immigrants facing deportation–due to the plenary power the rules grant to courts at the cost of lawyers.

The Immigration Council is among the primary pro-immigration coverage, litigation and advocacy organizations in the country.

“Ah yes, the hallmarks of a functioning system of due process for deportation; opaque terms and services where the government reserves the right to mess with the way you use their systems without a warning,” he sarcastically mused through Twitter.

Hoppock also noticed that the new EOIR rules contain provisions that permit the authorities to prohibit lawyers from using the machine for”filing case-related files” or for uploading”erroneous or incorrect information.” In those terms, however, aren’t defined in the rules.

Additionally, EOIR states they reserve the right to slap immigration lawyers with”criminal, civil, or administrative penalties” for any violations of their bureau’s new rules.

Law&Crime reached out to EOIR for comment and clarification on this article. No reply was forthcoming in the time of publication.

EOIR has been the topic of scandals in the recent past.

In March 2020, the agency was heavily criticized after ordering immigration judges to eliminate COVID-19 warning posters from courtrooms. After media reported on those decisions, supported via inner EOIR emails obtained by Law&Crime, the DOJ backtracked and stopped telling court staff to remove the posters.

In January of this season , Law&Crime reported that EOIR’s data tracking system had lost documents related to over 600 separate asylum cases.

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