For the last four years, we’ve been using the Freedom of Information Act to request records describing the policies and procedures that govern the processing of appeals and motions to reopen at the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Immigration Courts.

One resource that wasn’t previously publicly available was the BIA “Chairmans Memos” – a series of brief statements from the BIA Chairman directing BIA members and staff on how to process specific kinds of appeals. There appears to be several for each year, usually instructing staff on types of cases. When we asked for screenshots from the BIA’s intranet pages, one in particular listed these memos:

Screenshot from BIA Webpage on the BIA Chairman's Memos

In June 2018 we also received a handful of these memos in response to a separate FOIA request, but most of them were missing.

Anyway, now we have received the last of the memos in the set from 2004 to 2018. I’ve divided them up and run them through OCR. Also, if you’d rather just download the whole set, it’s here. The rest are here:


*Note – memo 04-02 addresses policy for defective transcript cases and cases where no separate IJ order is provided. This does not appear to have been rescinded.

*Note – memo 04-04 is the only guidance I’m aware of on how the BIA is to handle requests to reissue decisions to preserve parties’ rights to petition for review. This one also refers to several other “Standard Operating Procedure” documents that we’ll be requesting separately.

*Note – 09-04 has an interesting interpretation of when an applicant is an “unaccompanied child” and can thus apply for asylum affirmatively before the USCIS. It has never been rescinded, so I would argue it’s still binding policy at the Board. This might be helpful if folks are litigating BIA cases that raise the question of whether a child who was a UAC when they filed their application “aged out” during the process.

*Note – 10-05 contains a simplified version of the Board’s “standard operating procedure” for cases with protective orders in place. We previously obtained the full 20-page SOP document through FOIA and posted it here.

*Note – 12-03 appears to be the Board’s most recent guidance on how it will handle background and security checks. Previous two memos in 2007 and 2005 have not been rescinded, though, as far as I can tell.

*Note – 17-01 and 17-02 explain the way the BIA saves its decisions and drafts to its server. They might be helpful if you’re seeking specific BIA decisions from the Board and they claim they have no way to search for them, claim they don’t exist etc. This memo says they all exist and directs you where to find them. I’m still unaware if there is a 17-02. I’ve filed a separate request for it.

Please let us know if you have any questions about these.