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

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CONTACTS:
Maria Frausto
202-507-7526
mfrausto@immcouncil.org
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 19, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court to compel the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Information Policy (OIP) to release records about the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) hiring procedures for appellate immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) 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.


The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. Follow the latest Council news and information on ImmigrationImpact.com and Twitter @immcouncil.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. Follow AILA on Twitter @AILANational.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 20031937.