An Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) evaluation of the Board of Immigration
Appeals (BIA) Pro Bono Project indicates that the project has been successful
in increasing the level and quality of "pro bono" (free of charge) representation
for "respondents" (persons in immigration removal proceedings) who appeal
their cases to the BIA. The majority of these respondents are detained by the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Moreover, based on input from BIA members
and staff attorneys, as well as from the private attorneys and members of the
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who participate in the project, the study
finds that both respondents and the government benefit from the increased level
and quality of legal representation.
The October 2004 evaluation, which reviewed the first 3 years of the BIA Pro
Bono Project since its inception in January 2001, found that the project:
For complete evaluation of the Pro Bono project by EOIR, click
- Increased the number of respondents with pro bono counsel. Nearly 300 respondents,
who would not have had legal counsel otherwise, obtained pro bono legal representation
through the BIA Pro Bono Project.
- Facilitated the BIA's legal review of cases by increasing the number and
enhancing the quality of legal briefs filed in support of BIA appeals. While
most "pro se" (self-represented/without legal representation) respondents
do not file a brief in support of their appeals, nearly all of the project
cases included briefs which clearly articulated the key issues on appeal.
- Fostered continuous learning throughout the immigration advocacy community.
For example, the project provides real-world educational opportunities to
law students who intern in law firms and law clinics that participate in the
Under U.S. law, individuals in immigration proceedings are not provided legal
representation by the government. While they may obtain legal representation at
their own expense, many times they cannot afford to pay for private legal counsel.
EOIR's BIA Pro Bono Project assists several NGOs in their efforts to link volunteer
legal representatives nationwide with aliens, most of whom are detained, who have
immigration cases on appeal to the BIA and cannot afford legal representation.
The project seeks to remove traditional obstacles private attorneys face in identifying,
locating, and communicating with unrepresented aliens by providing EOIR case tracking
and summary information to facilitate the initial contact. Generally, the process
is as follows:
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) has provided critical assistance
in coordinating the project with other NGOs, which include the American Immigration
Law Foundation, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Capital Area
Immigrants' Rights Coalition, and the National Immigration Project of the National
Lawyers Guild. To date, EOIR's NGO partners have recruited more than 350 attorneys,
law students, and accredited representatives, and have matched 310 individuals
who would not have been represented by counsel, with pro bono legal representation.
- EOIR identifies certain types of cases for pro bono representation, based
upon criteria determined by the NGOs.
- NGOs review and summarize the selected cases and then distribute them via
e-mail to pro bono representatives throughout the country.
- Volunteers who accept a case then receive a copy of the court record and,
in most cases, additional time to file the appeal brief.
The BIA Pro Bono Project is one of three major EOIR Pro Bono Program initiatives
that are managed by the EOIR Pro Bono Coordinator with the goal of facilitating
access to pro bono legal assistance and creating new incentives for attorneys
and law students to take on pro bono cases before the Immigration Courts and the
BIA. The other two Pro Bono Program efforts are:
For additional information about EOIR's Pro Bono Program click
- Legal Orientation Program - provides comprehensive briefings about
Immigration Court procedures and other basic legal information to detained
individuals at seven DHS detention facilities nationwide; and
- Unaccompanied Alien Children initiative - a cooperative effort with
DHS, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (Department of Health and Human Services),
and NGOs to provide pro bono assistance and improve legal services for these