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EOIR’s Organizational Overview

A Historical Lens of EOIR


Description automatically generatedOn January 9, 1983, the Attorney General created EOIR as a separate agency within the DOJ to adjudicate immigration cases and hear appeals. Prior to the creation of EOIR, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) (created in 1933) was responsible for issuing immigration decisions, and the BIA (established in 1940) handled appeals of those decisions. In 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act organized all U.S. immigration laws into one statute, and designated “special inquiry officers,” the predecessors of immigration judges, to decide questions of deportation. The 1983 reorganization of the DOJ consolidated the appellate functions of the BIA with the immigration court functions of the INS, and together they formed EOIR. This reorganization made the immigration courts independent of the INS. INS remained the entity charged with enforcing federal immigration laws and initiating proceedings against persons alleged to be in violation of those laws.

In 2003, the newly formed DHS absorbed the immigration enforcement and services functions of the former INS, while EOIR remained an adjudicatory component within DOJ. As a result, DHS both refers cases to EOIR for adjudication and serves as the exclusive representative of the U.S. government in immigration court removal proceedings. This greater separation of judge and prosecutor reinforces the distinction between enforcement and adjudication of the immigration laws and better safeguards fairness and due process.

EOIR is also separate from the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section in the DOJ Civil Rights Division, which prosecutes unfair immigration-related employment practice claims before the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer, and the Office of Immigration Litigation in the DOJ Civil Division, which represents the government in immigration-related matters in the federal courts.

EOIR is responsible for adjudicating immigration cases. On behalf of the Attorney General, EOIR interprets and administers federal immigration laws. There are numerous immigration laws (which include but are not limited to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, the Immigration Act of 1990, and the Real ID Act of 2005) that have largely been consolidated in United States Code Title 8, which is generally referred to as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). EOIR principally decides whether to order respondents removed from the United States when charged with violations of immigration law or to grant protection or relief from removal.