March 3, 1997
FALLS CHURCH, VA -- On Friday, February 28, 1997, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) finalized an interim rule first published in the Federal Register on August 5, 1996. This final rule transfers the responsibility for maintaining the list of organizations providing free legal services in immigration proceedings from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to EOIR, Office of the Chief Immigration Judge. This rule also amends the regulations by permitting attorneys who provide free legal services to indigent aliens to apply to be included on the list. In addition, this rule transfers appellate jurisdiction from the Associate Commissioner for Examinations, INS, to the Board of Immigration Appeals for appeals from decisions regarding which applications are to be included on the list of free legal services providers and from decisions with respect to removals from such a list. Finally, this rule further implements section 604(d)(4) of the recently-enacted Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by requiring that the list of free legal services providers maintained by the Chief Immigration Judge include a list of persons who have indicated their availability to represent aliens in asylum proceedings on a pro bono basis.
EOIR promulgated this rule in order to enhance the opportunities for indigent aliens to find free legal counsel by providing them with a list of organizations and attorneys who are willing to represent them on a pro bono basis. EOIR also recognized the need to ensure that only bona fide referral services be included on the list. The rule was modified to allow organizations that operate referral services to apply to be on the list and to allow the Chief Immigration Judge to exercise his or her discretion in ruling on the applications.
Although the rule requires that an organization or attorney file an application requesting to be placed on the list of free legal services providers, there is no specific application form being used for this request at the present time. Any organization that is on the current list of free legal services providers will not need to apply at this time to be included on the new list. All organizations on the current list will be contacted by the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, or his or her designee, to determine if they intend to remain on the list and to verify identifying information, such as address and telephone number. Any organizations that cannot be reached will not be included on the new list.-