The Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP), formerly known as the Legal Orientation and Pro Bono Program, was established in April 2000 to improve access to legal information and counseling and to increase representation rates for foreign-born individuals appearing before the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). OLAP is responsible for administering the Legal Orientation Program, the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians of Unaccompanied Alien Children, and the BIA Pro Bono Project. OLAP also coordinates EOIR’s Committee on Pro Bono, the Model Hearing Program, and other initiatives which improve access to legal services for individuals appearing before EOIR’s tribunals.
Legal Orientation Program
Since 2003, EOIR has carried out the LOP to improve judicial efficiency in the immigration courts, and to assist detained individuals and others involved in detained removal proceedings to make timely and informed decisions. Under the LOP, EOIR contracts with non-profit organizations to provide group and individual orientations, self-help workshops, and pro bono referral services for detained individuals in removal proceedings. LOP is operational mainly at detention sites, but it also serves certain sites with non-detained individuals and certain family detention centers.
Independent analysis has shown that the LOP has positive effects on the immigration court process: detained individuals make better informed and more timely decisions and are more likely to obtain representation; and cases are completed faster, resulting in fewer court hearings, less time spent in detention and cost savings.
Legal Orientation Program for Custodians of Unaccompanied Alien Children
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2009 tasked EOIR and the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement to offer legal orientation presentations to the adult custodians of unaccompanied alien children in EOIR removal proceedings. The goals of the legal orientations include seeking to protect children from mistreatment, exploitation and trafficking, as well as increasing the appearance rates of these children in immigration court. In 2010, EOIR launched the LOPC to meet these goals and to help increase pro bono representation rates of unaccompanied alien children in immigration proceedings.
EOIR has contracted with non-profit partners to carry out the LOPC at 14 sites nationwide. The LOPC providers offer services similar to those provided under the LOP: general group orientations, individual orientations, self-help workshops, and assistance with pro bono referrals. Additionally, LOPC providers are able to assist with school enrollment and make referrals to social services to help ensure the well-being of the child. OLAP issues guidance to LOPC providers designed to assist them in identifying victims of mistreatment, exploitation, and trafficking; protecting the victims from further harm; and connecting the victims to needed social services.
In addition, since 2013, the LOPC has operated the LOPC National Call Center to assist in making appointments for custodians at one of the LOPC provider locations, and to provide telephonic assistance to custodians who live outside the geographic areas in which LOPC is currently available. This telephonic assistance includes legal orientations on the immigration court process, as well as guidance in filing basic court forms, such as the change of address and motion to change venue.
BIA Pro Bono Project
In 2001, EOIR and non-profit agencies developed the BIA Pro Bono Project (the "Project"). Individuals in removal proceedings are generally not entitled to publicly-funded legal assistance and, as a result, many appear before the immigration courts and BIA without counsel. Agencies that provide legal services to immigrants can face many obstacles in identifying, locating and communicating with unrepresented individuals in time to write and file an appeal brief. The Project helps overcome such obstacles. Through the Project, OLAP assists in identifying certain cases based upon pre-determined criteria. Once cases are identified and reviewed, their summaries are then distributed by a non-profit agency to pro bono representatives throughout the United States. Volunteers who accept a case under the Project receive a copy of the file, as well as additional time to file the appeal brief.
A ten-year review of the BIA Pro Bono Project, completed in February 2014, demonstrated that the Project found counsel willing to accept the case for 87% of cases screened between 2002 and 2011. Additionally, those who were represented through the Project were more likely to have briefs filed with their appeals than pro se respondents. Most significantly, an analysis of the appeals before the Board between 2002 and 2011 showed those who were represented through the Project were more likely to obtain a favorable outcome in their cases than those who do not receive representation. This was particularly the case for individuals who were detained. Since the beginning of the Project, over 1,000 individuals have been represented by pro bono counsel.
Model Hearing Program
The Model Hearing Program is an educational program developed to improve the quality of advocacy before the court, as well as to increase levels of pro bono representation. Model hearings consist of small-scale "mock" trial training sessions held in immigration court and presented by immigration judges. The training sessions, carried out in cooperation with partnering bar associations and/or pro bono agencies, provide practical and relevant "hands-on" immigration court training to small groups of attorneys/law students with an emphasis on practice, procedure and advocacy skills. Participants receive training materials, may obtain Continuing Legal Education credit from the partnering organization, and commit to a minimal level of pro bono representation. Since June 2001, more than 60 model hearing training sessions have been held in immigration courts nationwide. The Model Hearing Program Training Manual contains detailed information on the content and structure of this program, as well as samples of past training sessions.
Drawing on informational pamphlets developed by non-profit partners, throughout the nation's detention facilities, OLAP makes available 11 self-help guides. These guides, posted in English and Spanish, cover the most common forms of relief, as well as information about bond and an overview of immigration proceedings. The guides are generally accessible to detainees in the facility libraries and are available on the OLAP website as well.
- EOIR -
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is an agency within the Department of Justice. Under delegated authority from the Attorney General, immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals interpret and adjudicate immigration cases according to United States immigration laws. EOIR’s immigration judges conduct administrative court proceedings in immigration courts located throughout the nation. They determine whether foreign-born individuals—whom the Department of Homeland Security charges with violating immigration law—should be ordered removed from the United States or should be granted relief from removal and be permitted to remain in this country. The Board of Immigration Appeals primarily reviews appeals of decisions by immigration judges. EOIR’s Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer adjudicates immigration-related employment cases. EOIR is committed to ensuring fairness in all of the cases it adjudicates.