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Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age

Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim

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A massive computer failure at the US Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is reportedly wreaking havoc on US immigration courts, with application outages continuing well into their second week.

The agency issued an alert on April 14 warning immigration lawyers that certain key systems were down, but the New York Post reports that the outage actually began two days earlier.

"Certain applications, including eRegistration and some systems used to access information, such as the telephonic case information system (1-800 phone number), are currently not available," the EOIR alert explains. "We hope to have this situation resolved in the near future."

No such luck, it seems. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the application that attorneys must use to register with the EOIR before they are allowed to appear before an immigration court or the Board of Immigration Appeals was still listed as unavailable.

The toll-free telephone hotline that gives out information on immigration court cases is also reportedly still down.

According to a notice posted on the EOIR website, the outage is due to a "hardware failure," but an insider told the Post that it's more complicated than that. Five separate servers have died, the source said, triggering a catastrophic system failure that has thrown the immigration courts back to the bad old days of paper, pens, and tape recorders.

Screenshot showing statement regarding EOIR systems outage

The phrase "good enough for government work" comes to mind

What's more, the anonymous source said, the parts needed to fix the servers won't arrive  – mind-bogglingly – for two more weeks, even though they are apparently being shipped from Fairfax, Virginia, just seven miles away from EOIR's Falls Church headquarters.

"The Board of Immigration Appeals is continuing to process cases each day," the EOIR's online statement bravely states, "but is prioritizing its caseload to compensate for reliance on manual processes."

To hear court workers tell it, however, the paperwork is piling up. The Post's source said some illegal immigrants who are scheduled to be deported have even managed to skip flights back to their native countries thanks to the systems failure.

One attorney even speculated that delays caused by the meltdown could potentially allow some defendants to have their cases thrown out, if they can successfully argue that they are being denied due process under the law.

EOIR has offered no projected date when service will be restored. Its online statement not-very-helpfully explains, "We are continuing to evaluate the problem and are hard at work to find a solution." ®

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