The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) provides overall program direction, articulates policies and procedures, and establishes priorities for over 260 immigration judges in 58 immigration courts throughout the Nation. The Chief Immigration Judge carries out these responsibilities with Deputy and Assistant Chief Immigration Judges, a Chief Clerk’s Office, a Language Services Unit, and other functions that coordinate management and operation of the immigration courts.
In removal proceedings, immigration judges determine whether an individual from a foreign country (an alien) should be allowed to enter or remain in the United States or should be removed. Immigration judges are responsible for conducting formal court proceedings and act independently in deciding the matters before them. Their decisions are administratively final unless appealed or certified to the Board of Immigration Appeals. They also have jurisdiction to consider various forms of relief from removal. In a typical removal proceeding, the immigration judge may decide whether an alien is removable (formerly called deportable) or inadmissible under the law, then may consider whether that alien may avoid removal by accepting voluntary departure or by qualifying for asylum, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, protection under the United Nations Convention Against Torture, or other forms of relief.
Many removal proceedings are conducted in prisons and jails as part of an initiative called the Criminal Alien Program. In coordination with DHS and correctional authorities in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the District of Columbia, selected municipalities, and Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities, immigration judges conduct on-site hearings to adjudicate the immigration status of alien inmates while they are serving sentences for criminal convictions.
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