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Coronavirus is real, Sens. Rubio and Scott. Demand Miami immigration courts be shut down | Editorial

What part of “There’s a deadly scourge blazing its way around the globe; entire countries are on lockdown; American mayors are demanding that we ‘shelter in place;’ more than 100 people have died across the nation; and we may never see another sheet of toilet paper in the stores until Christmas” don’t the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice understand?

As detailed by Herald reporter Monique O. Madan, on Tuesday, the Executive Office for Immigration Review — in a midnight tweet — postponed hearings in immigration courts across the country except, bafflngly, Miami.

These federal agencies have absolutely no business putting their immigration judges, attorneys, court staffers and members of this community in such danger. They have no business spurning the resolute recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even President Trump — who took too long to take the pandemic seriously — to keep citizens at home, away from others, socially distanced.

Just as bad, according to the Miami office of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, hearings continued on Wednesday for those detained at Krome detention center in far west Miami-Dade County, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach and the detention facility for women in Glades County, near Lake Okeechobee. Women there are bused to Krome for their hearings. Though somewhat shielded from the disease, now that social visits have been banned, their lawyers must show up. So must the judges and too many others — all of whom banded together recently to insist that the immigration courts be shut down.

This is not a tough call, even though it will delay due process for scores of people who are seeking relief through asylum or even voluntary deportation.

Is the government prepared to provide adequate healthcare should there be a coronavirus outbreak at even one of these facilities housing hundreds of people awaiting an asylum hearing or an order of deportation? Is it even prepared to test for the coronavirus in the detention centers? Ordinary American citizens still have to jump through hoops to get tested.

Florida’s Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott need to get this fixed immediately. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who Wednesday announced he has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, now has every reason to join them. If they don’t, they will be as derelict in protecting their constituents’ lives as the departments of Justice and Homeland Security continue to be.

This story was originally published March 18, 2020 4:49 PM.

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