Immigration courts in New York stymied by government shutdown

University at Albany student Omar Helalat has been detained by immigration authorities in Batavia Federal Detention Center near Buffalo for nearly 10 months. His DACA status was revoked after his ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence, but even though the charges were dropped, he’s still facing deportation.

Just before Christmas, his Buffalo-based lawyer, Matthew Borowski, believed they were on the verge of a breakthrough to get Helalat bond, meaning the student could be released while his case was being decided.

But now because the government shutdown is canceling immigration court proceedings and threatening to cut off funding to federal courts, Helalat is left in limbo again.

The shutdown, caused by a conflict about border wall funding and now entering its 32nd day, has canceled thousands of immigration court hearings in New York. Cancellations have prompted relief for some Capital Region immigrants facing deportation while causing fear and confusion for many more waiting on their cases, attorneys say.

“I’ve had clients go to court expecting to have their case heard and they are met with a locked door,” Borowski said. “They’re not being notified.”

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data center based out of Syracuse University, estimated that 5,320 hearings would be cancelled in New York’s immigration courts by mid-January. That number is expected to double by the end of the month.

By Mallory Moench for TIMESUNION

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