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Appendix C: Enterprise Risk Management

External Challenges

As EOIR works toward achieving its mission and vision, the agency is continually faced with external challenges that affect the attainment of its mission, vision, goals, and objectives. 

Workload: EOIR’s OCIJ adjudicatory workload depends on the number of new cases DHS files, over which EOIR has no control. DHS sets the vast majority of EOIR’s initial caseload by filing charging documents that allege noncitizen violations of U.S. immigration law. In addition to the trial level workload, respondents and DHS are entitled to appeal IJ decisions to the BIA, which further adds to the agency’s workload. So too do changes to immigration statutes, regulations, and Executive branch policies.

Staffing: EOIR must be vigilant and prepared to staff both its routine workload and emergent situations/priorities that impact the size of its dockets.

Technology: As technology has evolved, EOIR has made significant changes in its IT and business processes to provide its users with the requisite level of service. This includes external access for both legal representatives and DHS through ECAS. Early in FY 2022, the ECAS system was 100% deployed and has since been maintained and regularly updated across all OCIJ court locations, Immigration Adjudication Centers, and the BIA. Through planning, EOIR will ensure that its staff, technology, and court processes are in place to meet the myriad challenges that face the agency.

Internal Strategic Planning Challenges and Improvements

In addition to the external challenges noted above, EOIR is confronted by a number of internal issues that are addressed in this Plan.

Technology: EOIR technology, including sufficient tools for staff and participants in the adjudicative process, is an area in which the agency needs to improve. The agency is committed to partnerships with other federal agencies to improve data sharing, without compromising the privacy interests of individuals, and achieving process efficiencies that provide taxpayers with the highest return on the agency’s technology investments. The agency continues to seek funding to address the digitization of pre-existing paper records of proceeding and to modernize the tools available for EOIR adjudicators to review those records. The agency is working to improve its data and information security posture by implementing more rigorous measures to protect the data entrusted to the agency.

In addition to keeping pace with new and existing telecommunication technologies, EOIR will more thoroughly evaluate video-teleconferencing (VTC), internet-based hearing mediums, and remote adjudication operations to better understand the strengths of technology used and to better recognize areas in need of improvement. This evaluation will proactively assess technology-based access to court proceedings.

Workforce: With constant changes in immigration laws and new uses for technology, EOIR will continue to focus on workforce planning to ensure strategic hiring going forward and on skill development efforts for new hires and existing staff. EOIR will ensure that employees at all levels of the agency can contribute to the accomplishment of the agency’s mission, while actively supporting EOIR’s vision and core values. EOIR will replenish its workforce through new recruitment initiatives concentrated on skill sets that are needed for the future.

Records Management: All DOJ employees are creators and/or custodians of agency records. EOIR will endeavor to identify what constitutes agency records and ensure that they are handled properly, from creation to final disposition. With the advent of new technologies, there are more forms of records than ever before, all of which must be handled, stored, and disposed of properly. EOIR will work to ensure that systems of records are created when necessary and that retention schedules are established and observed.

Pro Bono Representation: A longstanding area of concern for both the agency and the stakeholders is the large percentage of respondents who are unrepresented in immigration proceedings. To help address this concern, EOIR has established several programs to increase volunteer representation and to enhance respondents’ knowledge about the immigration court process and their courtroom rights. There are multiple initiatives to promote pro bono representation, including the implementation of the many components of Director’s Memorandum 22-01, “Encouraging and Facilitating Pro Bono Legal Services.” Those initiatives include OCIJ’s systematic outreach to the legal community through multiple stakeholder meetings, the launch of the Pro Bono Steering Committee comprised of Assistant Chief Immigration Judges, the creation of pro bono committees in each immigration court, and the launch of OCIJ’s Law School Working Group for outreach to law school clinicians and professors to increase law student participation in immigration court hearings and to attract them to the field of immigration law.

Due Process: EOIR’s trial, appellate, and administrative law judges must ensure that EOIR tribunals provide a fair process through which parties can exercise their due process rights. EOIR’s leadership’s responsibilities demand that all members of the agency maintain the highest levels of integrity and trustworthiness. EOIR’s adjudicators, as the public face of the agency, must exhibit these qualities before the public and uphold EOIR’s mission, vision, and core values.

Court Process: Given how dynamic immigration law and policy is by nature, EOIR must maintain a dual focus on recruiting new talent and providing skills development for existing staff.  EOIR must ensure that employees at all levels of the agency can contribute to the agency’s mission while actively supporting EOIR’s vision and core values. EOIR will continue to develop, deploy, and train all IJs, AIJs, ALJs, legal staff, and administrative staff on evolving topics of immigration law and policy.

Pending Cases: Successfully reducing the number of pending cases is one of the highest priorities for EOIR, and the agency continues to evaluate strategies to address its trial and appellate caseloads and to seek solutions for its backlog through collaborative, cross-component efforts. The inherent challenges are many. Reducing the pending caseload is a daunting task and given the size of the agency’s backlog and the volume of new cases being initiated by DHS, the simple reality is that EOIR’s ability to remedy its backlog is limited, absent an increased budget provided by Congress.