I recently sent the following letter to clients I represent. For people who seek legal representation in the next six to eight weeks, my availability will likely be very limited. My focus remains on my family, my community, and my current clients. Please take care!
We are all dealing with a global pandemic that is increasingly and drastically affecting social, professional, and economic life across the world. I am writing to let you know what I plan to do in the near future as your attorney.
In general, I will be working from home, where I already have my current office, separate from the house. That part of my practice will not change. Nevertheless, my family—and I am sure yours—has been impacted by the closure of schools and by community restrictions that limit in-person interactions. My spouse teaches at a Minnesota college, and it is suspending campus activities and moving entirely to distance or online learning. She will be teaching from our home. My youngest son’s school will close effective Tuesday, March 17, and he too will be at home and participating in online learning, as will my oldest son, whose college is closing for an indefinite period of time.
I do not expect these developments to change how I practice law so long as my health and my family’s health is unaffected. These developments may, however, change how quickly I am able to respond to concerns or questions and how quickly the courts or agencies handle cases before them.
If you are a domestic adoptee and have a state court case involving vital records or court records, I do not foresee a change in how I handle your case. That said, these cases will have little priority for court review and decision. Minnesota courts are dealing with immense challenges in limiting cases they consider, and most civil and non-urgent matters are being cancelled and rescheduled well into the future. I expect that, if we are waiting for a decision from the court on your case, those decisions will likely take additional significant time to be issued. I ask for patience as we both wait. I will also restrict my interaction with the courts so that they can transition to serving the public more effectively during an unprecedented health crisis. This means I will not be checking in with the court on decisions that are pending, at least in the near future.
If you are an intercountry adoptee whose case I am preparing for submission to USCIS, I do not foresee a change in my availability on that case. It will proceed in my office as expected. If you already have a case submitted to USCIS, I also do not see a change on my end on that case. Nevertheless, there are two issues that I am watching carefully: 1) whether USCIS adjusts how cases are handled; and 2) how you may be impacted by appointments USCIS schedules for you in your case, such as interviews for naturalization, biometrics appointments, or any other matters that require an appearance before the agency. From what I have informally observed and heard to date, USCIS may be using the crisis as a way to filter out and deny applications, simply by setting appointments that clients cannot physically attend or setting appointments in locations that involve large numbers of people, thereby endangering applicants and USCIS personnel by ignoring restrictions that apply to limit the impact of a pandemic (e.g., the very basic requirement of social distancing). Again, I am watching these cases carefully, communicating with other immigration attorneys, and will be in touch with those of you who have upcoming appointments with USCIS. These cases are my top priority.
Similar to the domestic adoptee matters, COVID-19 may also delay responses and decisions, such as FOIA documents or case processing. Again, I ask those of you waiting for a decision or a response from USCIS to remain patient. It’s impossible at this point to predict how COVID-19 will impact these pending matters, though I imagine we will see additional significant delay in case processing times and decisions.
I am well and working to protect my own health, my family’s health, and the health of my community. I have embraced social distancing as a collective endeavor that is required of all of us. I hope you are weathering this as best as you can and that you and your family remain healthy. I will also be reaching out to you directly very soon. Please feel free to reach out to me with any concerns or questions. I appreciate your trust and your patience.