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Chapter 6 – Facilities Protocols

6.1 – Security

EOIR typically conducts proceedings in two general types of facilities:  (1) federal or leased buildings controlled by the General Services Administration (non-detained), and (2) detention facilities controlled by DHS (detained).  In any facility, individuals must pass through a security screening prior to entering the court, which may result in delays.  Further, access to administrative offices in any facility is limited to authorized personnel and immigration court staff.

In each location, however, specific facility protocol varies, and visitors should check the EOIR website prior to arrival to ensure compliance.  In addition, emergency circumstances (e.g., pandemic; natural disasters) may affect certain facilities’ protocol.  Please visit the EOIR website detailing operational status for further information. 

Non-Detained Facilities

Courtroom security is of utmost concern.  Building security is determined by each individual facility and detailed on the EOIR website.

All immigration judges are responsible for familiarizing themselves with what types of security resources are available to them (and under what circumstances) in their courtrooms.  In unusual and appropriate circumstances, an immigration judge may adjourn a non-detained hearing for security reasons until those concerns have been appropriately addressed.

Detained Facilities

All individuals who visit or work in a detention facility—including immigration judges, staff, and visitors—must be aware of and comply with security guidelines and practices in place at the respective facilities, specifically as it relates to contraband.

Contraband is generally defined as goods or merchandise whose importation, exportation, or possession is prohibited.  The definition of what is or is not contraband in a particular detention facility is left to the sole and absolute discretion of the facility administrator, i.e., the warden or officer-in-charge.  The difference in security classifications between facilities often means that an item not considered contraband in one facility may be considered contraband in another.  No standard definition of contraband applies to every facility. 

The presiding immigration judge is responsible for determining if security measures are adequate to ensure the personal safety of those in the courtroom.  If the immigration judge determines that existing security precautions are inadequate, the immigration judge may immediately request that the responsible officials upgrade security in the courtroom to an appropriate level.  Failure by such officials to comply with a reasonable request for increased security may warrant an adjournment of the scheduled hearing until the necessary level of courtroom security is available.  Immigration judges may also request reduced or modified courtroom security, but the ultimate decision of whether to reduce or modify courtroom security lies with the responsible officials.  Immigration judges must nonetheless commence a hearing if the responsible official denies their request to reduce or modify courtroom security.

Consequently, individuals who visit or work in a detention facility must be familiar with and cognizant of applicable security guidelines.  Security guidelines and questions about such guidelines should be directed to the court administrator.  The obligation, however, to become aware of and to fully comply with security guidelines applicable to a facility or facilities rests with each individual.  Deviation from established security guidelines could be detrimental to the health and well-being of individuals inside the facility.