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Human Capital Strategic Context

EOIR Strategic Plan and Direction

In March 2024, EOIR approved a new Strategic Plan covering FY 2024 – 2028. The plan was posted online in April 2024 and describes four strategic goals:

Goal 1: Maximize Operational Efficiency While Ensuring Due Process
Goal 2: Foster a Culture of Public Service with Highly Engaged and Goal-Driven Employees
Goal 3: Create an Adaptable Organization by Using the Right Technology
Goal 4: Improve Communication to Ensure Proactive Management of the Immigration Adjudication System

In order to meet these goals and accomplish EOIR’s overarching priority of reducing the backlog of immigration cases, the agency needs to recruit and retain staff. Achieving EOIR’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and objectives requires an inclusive, diverse, highly skilled, highly motivated, and effective workforce comprised of employees who are enthusiastic about where they work and engaged in what they do. They should be provided with a workplace in which they are valued, trained, and encouraged to thrive. Success in recruiting, training, and retaining a workforce that meets changing mission requirements and program priorities requires a commitment to build the necessary infrastructure and a willingness to create a workplace that rewards teamwork and cooperation.

This Plan will help to define and direct the strategic management of human capital at EOIR to ensure that employees are effectively utilized to support EOIR’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and objectives. Within the EOIR strategic plan, our primary human capital goal is Goal 2: Foster a Culture of Public Service with Highly Engaged and Goal-Driven Employees. The goal is designed to have the right people in the right place at the right time to carry out EOIR’s mission with the right tools and expertise.

As noted in the Executive Summary, EOIR’s Human Capital Mission is to develop, recruit, and maintain a highly professional workforce. Our Human Capital approach will provide leadership, guidance, and technical expertise in all areas related to management of EOIR’s human resources, including recruitment, employee development, staff retention, and leadership in labor-management cooperation. EOIR’s Human Resource Vision is a premier workforce that is diverse, committed to excellence, and motivated to carry out EOIR’s mission.

Factors Driving a Successful Human Capital Strategy

EOIR has faced significant challenges in accomplishing its mission. While EOIR’s staff has grown, its workload has grown at a disproportionately higher rate. The chart below shows that from FY 2017 to FY 2023, EOIR’s onboard IJs increased by 117% (FY2017 338 to FY2023 734); however, EOIR receipts increased by 308% (FY 2017 295,263 to FY2023 1,206,222).

Immigration Judge Hiring

New Cases and Total Completions

During times when funding has been limited, hiring activity has typically been concentrated on front-line positions directly supporting the agency’s mission (e.g., immigration judges, attorneys, and interpreters). While this may seem like an appropriate alignment of personnel with mission, EOIR must also hire adequate administrative and infrastructure staff.

EOIR management will take a fresh look at several diverse areas, from the agency’s basic processes (e.g., federal sector reform) to headquarters structure (i.e., number of offices and their reporting relationships). Changes in these areas and others must be addressed when planning EOIR’s needs for present and future effectiveness.

As discussed above, workforce planning is a systematic approach to ensuring that the agency has the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, and at the right time. EOIR, as is generally the case with sustainable organizations, has been involved with aspects of workforce planning throughout its history. What differs now is the emphasis on a systematic examination of the workforce’s sustainable capability to meet mission-critical objectives; recruitment, development, motivation, and retention efforts closely tied to building and maintaining that capability, with costs allocated in the agency budget as strategic investments; and evaluation of these efforts in light of how well they contribute to the effective and efficient accomplishment of the mission.

Factors Affecting EOIR Human Capital Planning

Legislative and Regulatory

Government-wide concerns with human capital issues have resulted in a number of legislative, policy, and regulatory changes. Some of these are the Chief Human Capital Act of 2002, 5 C.F.R. § 250.2032, the OPM Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework, Human Capital Standards for Success, and the Annual Human Capital Management Report. The GAO has also reported on EOIR’s need for strategic management of human capital and workforce planning:

  • GAO-17-438, “Immigration Courts: Actions Needed to Address Workforce Planning and Other Management Challenges” recommended that:

    • To better address current and future staffing needs, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a strategic workforce plan that addresses, among other areas, key principles of effective strategic workforce planning, including (1) determining critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic results; (2) developing strategies that are tailored to address gaps in number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches for enabling and sustaining the contributions of all critical skills and competencies; and (3) monitoring and evaluating the agency’s progress toward its human capital goals and the contribution that human capital results have made toward achieving programmatic results.

  • GAO-23-105431, “Immigration Courts: Actions Needed to Address Workforce, Performance, and Data Management Challenges” recommended that:

    • The Director of EOIR should involve key leadership and stakeholders in establishing a documented governance structure for workforce planning that includes assigned and documented roles and responsibilities for workforce planning and implementation across all levels of EOIR, and measurable and observable targets and metrics to determine effectiveness in achieving strategic or organizational goals.

    • The Director of EOIR should take additional steps to communicate clear information to Congress as a part of its annual budget justification regarding EOIR’s workforce needs and the extent to which its existing appropriations support its total reported positions.

    • The Director of EOIR should implement a process to evaluate, on a periodic basis, the performance appraisal program for adjudicative staff (immigration judges, assistant chief immigration judges, and appellate immigration judges), consistent with OPM guidance. 


Goal 3 in EOIR’s strategic plan is to create an adaptable organization by using the right technology. As discussed in EOIR’s strategic plan, technology is a critical component of EOIR’s ability to adapt to shifts in immigration flows, address its caseload, and ensure due process. Technology is changing so rapidly and dramatically that all organizations, public and private, are having difficulty obtaining and maintaining the skills needed to plan for and operationalize their technology requirements. In EOIR, this encompasses not only standard information technology (IT), but also the highly sophisticated equipment used in programs. EOIR’s strategic goals envision an agency capable of developing new technologies, providing integrated data sets for decision support and management systems, enhancing data management and analysis capabilities, and providing easy accessibility of data to the public. The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a key role in EOIR human capital endeavors, particularly in using AI to maximize and better utilize scarce resources.

Business Practices

As evidenced by its historic workload performance (e.g., all-time high number of cases completed or otherwise resolved), EOIR has a highly motivated workforce that is focused on accomplishing EOIR’s mission. It is committed to organizational excellence and recognizes the need to continue to improve its human capital management practices as part of its larger effort to integrate planning, performance measurement, and budget formulation. New business processes, along with an increased emphasis on customer service and strategic alliances, create the need for new skills and different ways of thinking about its work.


Although EOIR has received modest annual increases to its budget over the past few years, in FY 2024, the budget actually decreased from FY 2023 while new case filings increased exponentially. Further, increased concerns about growing Federal deficits may bring renewed pressure on EOIR’s resources (people, processes, and technology) in the near term and foreseeable future. This will continue to impact EOIR’s ability to retain critical knowledge and skills and to increase the recruitment of staff in multiple disciplines and functions. A list of EOIR’s core job series by EOIR office can be found in Appendix B: EOIR Occupational Group and Career Series- May 2024.

Development of the Plan

Based upon OPM advice, legal authorities, GAO recommendations, and other references, EOIR developed this Plan to ensure its implementation efforts are holistic and will help EOIR attain its strategic goals and objectives as outlined in the EOIR Strategic Plan (which aligns to the DOJ Strategic Plan). The Plan includes guidance for implementation and communications that are flexible enough to allow changes in initiatives as EOIR develops insight into which initiatives best move the Agency towards results and how to best communicate those results. The Plan is also linked to budget realities. Adequate leadership support and resources, both human and fiscal, are critical to the success of any plan. This Plan constitutes a roadmap to ensure a strong workforce that is able to meet the mission challenges of today and the future.

EOIR recognizes communication is a critical component of developing and implementing any plan that requires an enterprise-wide effort. An informed and participative workforce involved in making decisions that impact them is more likely to be committed to and positively engaged in taking on a leadership role in accomplishing EOIR’s mission. During OPM’s work with EOIR, there were several “visioning” sessions conducted from January 5 – May 3, 2023, with focus groups that included staff at all levels. By the end of the visioning session, the attendees had identified general areas that should be addressed in the Plan. Specific to human capital management and workforce planning, these areas include:

1.  Strategic Planning
2.  Workforce Analysis
3.  Funding and Resources/Workload
4.  Training
5.  Recruitment and Hiring

The issues raised in the visioning sessions are, to a substantial degree, incorporated in this Plan. The most important first step is to ensure the Plan aligns programs and human capital/workforce planning so that all executives can assume ownership of the goals. As a best practice and as recommended by GAO, there is a strong need for a strategic human capital and workforce plan. In arriving at these priority areas, the participants considered the full scope of human capital management and workforce planning.

Supporting Infrastructure, Roles, and Responsibilities for Human Capital Management

Strategic communication is the cornerstone of effective human capital management. In any work environment, the need to inform others, share information, educate employees, brief management, brainstorm ideas with colleagues, and serve customers are the linchpins to accomplishing the work. Accordingly, EOIR has developed and will implement a comprehensive communication strategy that ensures all employees understand the Human Capital Plan, including their roles and responsibilities, and provides regular progress reports on accomplishing action strategies.

To successfully implement EOIR’s Strategic Management of Human Capital and Workforce Plan, everyone, from the Director to frontline employees, must be committed to the Plan and its goals. Senior leadership will need to communicate its commitment to developing human capital in general and to achieving the specific human capital goals outlined in the Plan. In addition, they must provide support by incorporating human capital into their performance plans and ensuring that resources are allocated to the efforts.

EOIR’s Human Resources and Chief, Strategic Workforce Management, will take the lead in implementing and maintaining the Plan, coordinating among offices, developing and implementing the communication strategy, and managing the accountability system. Through these efforts, EOIR employees should be able to identify their roles in the agency’s human capital management and provide feedback. Moreover, the Plan will be available on EOIR’s internal and external websites.