I’m writing to share more FOIA records we’ve received from the BIA.

For the last year we’ve been working on obtaining records through FOIA to better understand how the Board of Immigration Appeals works from top to bottom. The thought is that with more information about what the system is and how it operates, we should be able to represent our clients better before the BIA.

Obtaining records through FOIA often feels like removing the layers of an onion. When we started we didn’t really know what records actually existed. But each record we get tells about other records. Last year we obtain records about an internal network called the “BIA Website” that holds a substantial amount of BIA records on internal procedures and policies. Since then, I’ve been submitting FOIA requests for the documents listed there.

Today the Department of Justice produced several important documents that will help us better understand how the Board works (and how better to advocate for clients with cases there). Here they are:

Documents About How the BIA Works

These documents describe how the BIA works once an appeal or a motion is filed. The most important of these is the flow chart that explains what steps an appeal or motion go through before it is decided:

The rest of the documents in this set explain in a more granular fashion how the BIA clerk’s office operates day-to-day. They include its mission statement, two “Standard Operating Procedures” documents for cases with protective orders and cases on remand from federal court, organizational charts and descriptions of duties, and two forms used by the clerk’s office regarding the handling of the paper file, called the “Record of Proceedings” or “ROP”:

BIA Contact Information

These documents were supposed to give us specific individuals’ contact information and identify what their role is at the Board. However, the DOJ has redacted all telephone numbers. We still get the names and roles of these individuals, which might be useful:

Glossaries and Acronyms

Immigration law is full of acronyms and jargon, and it’s sometimes helpful to know what they mean. Here are the resources the BIA clerk’s office uses to keep them straight:

BIA Closure Dates

This document lists every time the BIA clerk’s office has been closed from January, 1996 to January, 2018. This will be incredibly helpful if a client we’re trying to help has missed a filing deadline and it turns out the day they were supposed to file the thing, the clerk’s office was closed.

This document would also be helpful if you mailed something to the BIA and it didn’t get there on time. They appear to have quite a few “unresolved mail issues” for most of 2015: