When a Key West woman finally got her notice to appear in immigration court, she prepared for a grueling trek to Miami.
The Russian immigrant — a domestic violence victim who works as a scooter mechanic — took unpaid time off from work, hopped on a bus to Miami Beach, was picked up by a friend who let her stay overnight at her Broward home, and then ultimately took Uber from Hallandale Beach to Miami’s immigration court.
After an hour of waiting in line, she found out that the court date printed on her letter was fake. There was no hearing for her that day.
“I had a panic attack,” said the woman, whom the Miami Herald is not naming because of her immigration status and privacy concerns. “I zigzagged across half the state and it cost me a lot of money to get there. All for nothing.”
The woman’s odyssey across three counties, only to arrive at a courthouse that had no record of her case being scheduled — despite the date and time being printed on her mailed “notice to appear” from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services — is just one of hundreds of cases in South Florida and thousands across the country.
“People have been ordered to appear on national holidays, on weekends and even at midnight — when we all know immigration court isn’t operating,” said Tammy Fox-Isicoff, the woman’s attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Her client was placed in deportation proceedings after her battered-spouse petition — an immigrant-visa benefit available to domestic-violence victims married to U.S. citizens — had been denied.
Justin Sweeney, an immigration attorney in Fresno, California, says other people have been issued nonexistent dates, such as Nov. 31, and that others have received dates that appear to be correct but, when the immigrants appear at court, they discover that their case wasn’t scheduled or that it was slated for a completely different date.
“They’re ‘dummy dates.’ That’s the term that gets thrown around,” Sweeney said. “It’s a serious problem nationwide.”
By Monique O. Madan for BRADENTON.COM
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