Group petitioning for DOJ to reopen Pittsburgh immigration court six weeks after closing

PITTSBURGH — People seeking U.S. citizenship gathered Friday morning outside the former Federal Immigration Court in Pittsburgh to petition the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review to reopen the court, six weeks after its closure.

“This abrupt closure has left people confused and scared,” said Casa San Jose emergency response organizer Laura Perkins.

The court had operated in Pittsburgh since the 1960s, but the DOJ shut it down on April 29, citing capacity issues and staff restrictions.

Casa San Jose said the closure sent around 2,000 people scrambling to figure out how to complete their immigration proceedings.

“It’s very, very scary. It’s complicated. It’s difficult times,” explained Carlos Blanco. He is one of those 2,000 people currently undergoing immigration proceedings.

Blanco came to Pittsburgh on a visa from Mexico 10 years ago. He has been seeking asylum ever since.

He and many others have been given the choice to travel to Philadelphia for their immigration hearings or complete the process virtually.

Otherwise, they’ll face dire consequences.

“The consequence of not being present at the hearing of the court is, obviously, the process of deportation,” said Blanco.

Perkins says that traveling across the state for hearings is too risky or too expensive for many immigrants.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people that have to miss one or two days of work get fired because of that. And not only that, their families depend on them,” explained Perkins. “A lot of them are sole breadwinners for their families.”

Perkins notes that participating virtually is not a viable option either.

“Casa San Jose helps people with their internet bills and we know that not only is it hard to make monthly payments, but the internet they have often doesn’t work,” she said.

Casa San Jose’s online petition has gathered close to 400 signatures.

If you’d like to sign it, click here.