LAW CORNER WITH JC 28 มีนาคม 2563

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) AND THE LAW

Hi everyone! A lot has changed in a week. As I sit and write this, I am in my home office, working from home in what is now the 4th day of an emergency order put in place here in Los Angeles as a result of the virus pandemic affecting not only the United States, but the entire world. What started in China has now spread worldwide to every continent on the planet, except for Antarctica. As of this writing, the World Health Organization is reporting that there are 378,394 coronavirus cases, and 16,491 reported deaths!!! (https://www.who.int). With no immediate vaccine in sight, these numbers are sure to rise. I only present these statistics to make people aware that this outbreak is no joke. Please be mindful of others and adhere to what the medical and scientific community has advised you to do.

I will not go into details about the virus itself (Covid-19, Novel Coronavirus) because there are countless other sources on that; Instead, in this article I will be discussing the virus as it relates to the laws and orders that are in effect due to its danger and the need to contain it.

California’s “Stay at Home” Emergency Order and Los Angeles’ “Safer at Home” Emergency Order

Governor of California Gavin Newsom made an emergency order last Thursday (March 19, 2020) for all residents of California to stay in their homes as much as possible. The “Stay at Home” order shut down most retail shops, malls, and corporate offices, but allowed banks, grocery shops, pharmacies and certain other exempted businesses. As for residents, this order did not mean that people were not allowed to leave their homes but instead, encouraged people to maintain at least 6 feet apart if going out.

More locally, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Sunday night, announced further restrictions to the county by ordering all bars to shut down and restricted restaurants to only serve takeout and delivery services. As it currently stands, Los Angeles’ “Safer at Home” order prohibits all “non-essential businesses” to shut down. Some of the businesses that can remain open are: Health care providers (such as Hospitals, Clinics, Pharmacies, etc.), gas stations, grocery stores and hardware stores.

Mandatory Order but Not A Lockdown

The orders in place in California are not considered “lockdown” orders, since those would not allow any freedom outside the home, whatsoever. Instead, the current orders allow travel outside but for essential needs and activities only. Although these orders are mandatory and legally enforceable by a fine and/or imprisonment. Based on this, you may still go out and buy groceries, pick up medicine, go pickup food at a restaurant or drive-thru, ride a bike or take a walk. Just make sure if you do any of these, stay at least 6 feet away from the next person.

Extended Tax Filing Deadline

In my previous article, I wrote about tax filing and how this was important to conditional green card holders. The importance is still there, however, there has been a change in the tax filing deadline this year. Initially your Federal and State income tax return, for income earned in 2019, was due on April 15 (Wednesday); but because of the chaos surrounding COVID-19, the Internal Revenue Service has announced that the income tax filing deadline has now been changed to July 15, 2020! I hope this just gives us a little more time to prepare our documents, receipts, etc., and not an excuse to further procrastinate until almost the deadline.

US Immigration Offices Closing and Immigration Court Rescheduling USCIS Offices: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily closed their field offices and Application Support Centers. Although USCIS will continue to perform administrative tasks, offices will not be open to contact with the public. Therefore, this closure will affect any in-person filing, in-person requests, all interviews and swearing-in ceremonies. Although USCIS announced that this closure was in effect until April 1, I predict that it will remain closed for a longer period than that. In any event, for those of you that had appointments for interviews, asylum, fingerprinting, or naturalization ceremonies, don’t worry, those will be rescheduled. Immigration Court: In the case of Federal court cases being heard in US Immigration Court in downtown Los Angeles, although the court is not officially closed, access is being severely restricted, with many cases being continued or rescheduled. As of last week, I was notified that 3 of my cases have been rescheduled for next month. Again, I predict that because of the backlog, these cases may again be rescheduled. We shall see. Hopefully, any changes will take into consideration the safety of everyone involved. JC: We Must Work Together In closing, I would like to express my condolences to all those that have been, either directly or indirectly, affected by the viral outbreak, COVID-19. This is a time of much anxiety and despair; a medical challenge that has impacted our daily lives like no other in present lifetime. In order to beat this, we must stick together and do whatever is necessary to stop the spread of this virus. Do what the medical professionals and scientist tell us; that is, to practice safe hygiene (wash hands, clean surfaces, cover your sneezes and coughs), and practice social distancing (avoid unnecessary travel and gatherings, staying at least 6 feet away from others, etc.). And to those younger persons who do not think they can get sick, you can! And maybe you will not be symptomatic and not show signs of illness, you might still be a carrier who can infect others, like your neighbor, your parents, and even your own child who might not have the same strong immune system like yours. You can potentially harm and kill them! With this in mind, please be thoughtful of others. (Please see my Facebook for more tips on what you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19) If you have questions or comments related to this article, or if you have some other legal issue you would like me to assist you with, please contact my office at (818) 846-5639, or my Thai direct line at (818) 505-4921. Also, if you have any questions that you would like to be answered in future articles, please email me at: JC4LAW@HOTMAIL.COM. And if you have not done so, please be sure to visit my website at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM for general information regarding this and many other topics in Business, Property and Family Law. Also be sure to check us out on the web at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM, and on FACEBOOK at: https://www.facebook.com/ThaiAttorney Be sure to follow (and "like") me for the most recent updates in the law! Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation.