Lawsuit Seeks to Uncover Problematic Board of Immigration Appeals’ Hiring Procedures

March 19, 2020

WASHINGTON—The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court to compel the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy to release records about the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s hiring procedures for appellate immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals Members. The lawsuit seeks to understand current hiring procedures for the BIA—the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws—after reports came to light of anti-immigrant bias in the hiring process.

The DOJ—which oversees immigration courts, houses the BIA, and employs immigration judges—has failed to disclose critical information about the hiring policy of appellate immigration judges and BIA Members, who make precedential decisions in the immigration adjudicatory system.

Advocates and policymakers have become concerned that DOJ’s hiring practices for appellate immigration judges and Board Members are improperly influenced by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. Biased hiring practices for these judges are a concern for the public because these judges can set legal precedent that has the potential to negatively impact thousands of immigrants seeking protection and/or a path to lawful status in the United States.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges DOJ’s failure to disclose information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in October 2019.

“The fairness of the immigration court system depends on the impartiality of judges who are responsible for deciding thousands of cases each year. If appellate judges are not neutral decision-makers, the integrity of our immigration system is compromised,” said Claudia Valenzuela, FOIA senior attorney at the American Immigration Council. “The lack of transparency in this hiring process only serves to undermine public confidence in this system.”

“It’s imperative that the public, policymakers, and stakeholders be provided with the opportunity to review the thus far opaque hiring process at the BIA. Allegations of politicized hiring give rise to the notion that BIA decisions serve the political purposes of the attorney general, rather than adhere to prior case law,” said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

A copy of the complaint is here


For more information, contact the American Immigration Council:

Maria Frausto at [email protected] or 202-507-7526; or George Tzamaras at [email protected] or 202-507-7712.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
[email protected]

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