The economic relief package passed by Congress on Wednesday would put on hold controversial changes to the federal food stamps program. The Trump administration planned to implement a rule on April 1 that would have required more able-bodied adults who did not have dependents to work 80 hours a month to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for more than three months in a three-year period.
On Friday, a federal court temporarily blocked the rule from taking effect in light of the coronavirus epidemic and because “aspects of the final rule are likely unlawful because they are arbitrary and capricious,” Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., wrote. Then on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that gives states the right to continue waiving the work requirements as needed during the COVID-19 outbreak. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
Many low-income Americans work in retail, food service, and hospitality jobs—the economic sectors most affected by the pandemic. —Charissa Koh
Last week, immigrant children detained in Houston had hearings via video conference call before Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Sirce Owen in Atlanta. Owen and the children saw each other on screens, and interpreters communicated for them through a rough audio feed. Technical glitches delayed the proceedings.
Immigration courts are increasingly using video for children’s hearings. Some states, including New York, Tennessee, and Virginia, already use this technology for children detained far away from a courthouse. Video hearings could reduce costs and provide flexibility in processing the backlog of immigration cases, but advocates warn they could lead to worse outcomes for children. Gladis Molina Alt with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights described the feel in courtrooms that use video conference calls: “They were just images on a screen as opposed to children whose lives were being impacted by the decision that was being made in court.”
A growing number of people are calling for immigration courts to stop in-person trials to prevent spreading the new coronavirus. Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice canceled preliminary hearings for non-detained illegal immigrants, but all other hearings will continue. —C.K.