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Chapter 1 – Introduction to EOIR

1.3 - Composition of the Components

(a) The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge

     (1) In General - As discussed in ICPM, Chapter 1.2 (Function of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge), OCIJ supervises and directs the activities of the immigration courts.  OCIJ operates under the supervision of the director of EOIR.  OCIJ is composed of:

            (A) Chief Immigration Judge - The Chief Immigration Judge (CIJ) oversees the administration of the immigration courts nationwide.

            (B) Principal Deputy Chief Immigration Judge - The Principal Deputy Chief Immigration Judge (PDCIJ) assists the Chief Immigration Judge in overseeing the administration of the immigration courts throughout the country and supervises the Deputy Chief Immigration Judges.

            (C) Regional Deputy Chief Immigration Judges - The Regional Deputy Chief Immigration Judges (RDCIJs) assist the PDCIJ in carrying out the responsibilities of that office and are responsible for daily supervision of the Assistant Chief Immigration Judges (ACIJs) within the RDCIJs’ assigned geographical region.

            (D) Assistant Chief Immigration Judges - The ACIJs oversee the operations of specific immigration courts.  A listing of the immigration courts overseen by each ACIJ and assigned areas of responsibility is available on the EOIR website.

            (E) Legal Staff: Chief Counsel and Attorney Advisors/Judicial Law Clerks - OCIJ has a sizable legal staff, which includes a chief counsel, attorney advisors at the OCIJ headquarters, and permanent and term attorney advisors and judicial law clerks (JLC) at the immigration courts nationwide.  The legal staff supports the CIJ, PDCIJ, RDCIJs, ACIJs, and IJs.

            (F) Language Services Unit - The Language Services Unit (LSU) oversees staff interpreters and contract interpreters at the immigration courts.  The LSU conducts quality assurance programs for all interpreters.

     (2) Immigration courts - EOIR employs immigration judges and professional staff in the immigration courts nationwide.  As a general matter, immigration judges determine removability and adjudicate applications for relief or protection from removal.  For the specific duties of immigration judges, see Additional Reference Materials, Chapter 1.4 (Jurisdiction, Authority, and Priorities).  Immigration judge decisions are final unless timely appealed or certified to the BIA. See ICPM, Chapter 6 (Appeals of Immigration Judge Decisions)

Each immigration court has a court administrator.  Under the supervision of an ACIJ, the court administrator manages the daily activities of the immigration court and supervises staff interpreters, legal assistants, and clerical and technical employees.  A complete listing of the immigration courts, including the immigration judges assigned to each court, is available on the EOIR website.

(b) The Board of Immigration Appeals

     (1) In General - The BIA is authorized by regulation to have 23 members, including a CAIJ and two Deputy Chief Appellate Immigration Judges (DCAIJs).  Under the direction of the CAIJ, the BIA uses a case management system to screen all cases and manage its caseload.  Using that system, the BIA adjudicates cases in one of three ways:

          (A) Single member - The majority of cases at the BIA are adjudicated by a single member.  In general, a single member decides the case unless the case falls into one of six categories that require a decision by a panel of three members.

          (B) Panel - Panels render decisions by majority vote.  The BIA assigns cases to specific panels pursuant to the Chairman’s administrative plan.  The Chairman may change the composition of the sitting panels and may reassign members from time to time.  Panels consisting of three members adjudicate cases not suitable for consideration by a single member.  These categories are marked by the need to:

  • settle inconsistencies among the rulings of different immigration judges;
  • establish a precedent construing the meaning of laws, regulations, or procedures;
  • review a decision by an immigration judge or DHS that is not in conformity with the law or with applicable precedents;
  • resolve a case or controversy of major national import;
  • review a clearly-erroneous factual determination by an immigration judge; or
  • reverse the decision of an immigration judge or DHS in a final order, other than nondiscretionary dispositions.

          (C) En banc - The BIA may, by majority vote or by direction of the chairman, assign a case or group of cases for full en banc consideration.  The determination of the BIA en banc represents the determination of the BIA and cannot be contradicted or overturned by a three-member panel.  The BIA en banc may issue published or unpublished decisions.  By regulation, en banc proceedings are not favored.

     (2) Appellate Immigration Judges - Appellate Immigration Judges (AIJs)—also known as Board Members—including the CAIJ and the DCAIJs, adjudicate cases coming before the BIA.  AIJs may also occasionally serve as IJs presiding over immigration court hearings, and they are recused from considering any case on appeal for which they presided as an IJ.  The CAIJ directs, supervises, and establishes internal operating procedures and policies for the BIA.

Parties appearing before the BIA may not request specific members or a specific panel to adjudicate their case.  The BIA also does not respond to inquiries regarding the identity of the panel or members assigned to a pending case.

     (3) Legal staff - The BIA employs a legal staff assigned to support designated panels, members, and functions.

     (4) Clerk’s Office - The Office of the Clerk is responsible for managing appellate records and information for the BIA.  The Chief Clerk of the BIA heads the clerk’s office.  Cases in which a noncitizen is not detained are processed by two regional teams (East and West), depending on the location of the immigration court.  The priority case management team processes cases involving detained noncitizens.  The motions team processes both detained and non-detained motions for the BIA.  The docket team processes adjudicated cases and serves decisions on parties.  Various other teams provide management and administrative support to all operations.

(c) The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer

The OCAHO is headed by a CAHO who is responsible for the general supervision and management of the component and the Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ).  In turn the CALJ supervises a corps of ALJs and support staff.  ALJs, including the CALJ, preside at hearings mandated by provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) and the Immigration Act of 1990.

ALJs hear cases and adjudicate issues arising under the provisions of the INA relating to: (1) knowingly hiring, recruiting, or referring for a fee unauthorized noncitizens, or the continued employment of unauthorized noncitizens, failure to comply with employment eligibility verification requirements, and requiring indemnity bonds from employees in violation of section 274A of the INA (employer sanctions); (2) immigration-related unfair employment practices in violation of section 274B of the INA; and (3) immigration-related document fraud in violation of 274C of the INA.

Hearings are conducted under applicable laws and regulations, as well as the general requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.  Employer sanctions and document fraud cases are subject to administrative review by the CAHO and/or the Attorney General.  All final agency decisions are subject to review in the federal circuit courts of appeal.

ALJs may also occasionally serve as IJs presiding over immigration court hearings.

     (1) Legal and administrative staff - In addition to the CAHO, OCAHO staff includes ALJs, a counsel, a judicial law clerk, a paralegal specialist, and a staff assistant.  OCAHO also has case management staff, comprised of a supervisory management analyst and court clerk, who process and administer OCAHO’s filings, records, and case management system.