FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE UNVEILS ADMINISTRATIVE RULE CHANGE TO
BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS IN ORDER TO ELIMINATE MASSIVE
BACKLOG OF MORE THAN 56,000 CASES
WASHINGTON, D.C. - - Attorney General John Ashcroft unveiled plans today to issue new regulations that will expedite the review of cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The administrative rule change will eliminate the backlog of more than 56,000 immigration cases pending before the BIA, remove unwarranted delays, and utilize the resources of the BIA more efficiently.
"A mission of the Department of Justice is enforcing our immigration laws fairly, deliberately, and without delay. Today's announced reorganization of the Board of Immigration Appeals will meet these objectives while protecting due process," said Ashcroft. "Justice delayed is justice denied. When it takes several years to render a decision, justice is not only denied, it is also derailed."
Under the rule change all immigration appeals will be sent to a screening panel of individual board members who may review the cases and render decisions in relatively simple matters. If a case presents an issue that requires the resources and attention of a three-member panel, the board member will send it on to the larger panel.
The proposed rules provide specific guidance regarding the cases that will be appropriate for three-member review including:
The proposed rule eliminates the BIA's de novo review of factual issues. The BIA will accept the factual findings of the immigration judges, disturbing them only if they are "clearly erroneous." Accordingly, the proposed rule also prohibits the introduction and consideration of new evidence in proceedings before the BIA.
The proposed administrative rule change also establishes stricter guidelines for filing and deciding appeals. An immigration judge on the screening panel will have 90 days in which to decide a case or refer the matter to a three-member panel. The BIA three-member panel will have 180 days to review and render their decision.
The administrative rule change will save approximately $10 to $30 million that could be applied to reduce backlogs in the processing of immigration applications. In addition, the proposal addresses the BIA's inability to efficiently decide immigration appeals many of which have been pending for years.
The administrative rule change includes a six month transition period to apply the new rule to pending and new cases.
The interim regulation will be published in the Federal Register next week and is expected to become effective in April.