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U.S. Department of Justice
Executive Office for Immigration Review
Office of the Director
5107 Leesburg Pike, Suite 2400
Falls Church, Virginia 22041

Contact: Public Affairs Office
(703)305-0289, Fax: (703) 605-0365

January 17, 2001

Board of Immigration Appeals Launches PRO BONO Project

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced today that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA, or Board) will begin a new 6-month pilot project aimed at increasing pro bono representation for detained aliens whose immigration cases are under appeal. Scheduled to begin later this month, the BIA Pro Bono Project will work to link volunteer legal representatives from around the country with detained immigrants who lack legal representation.

The project is a unique partnership between EOIR and several private (non-government) organizations who advise or assist immigrants, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights (CAIR) Coalition, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and the American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF). It marks an important precedent in EOIR's long-standing commitment to encouraging and increasing pro bono representation of aliens in proceedings. Because aliens in removal proceedings are not entitled to publicly-funded legal assistance, many appear before the Immigration Courts and Board without legal counsel. Of particular concern is the lack of representation for indigent individuals who are detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, since the majority of detained cases usually proceed without representation. In FY 1999, for example, almost 2,400 of the more than 4,300 detained case appeals proceeded without legal representation for the alien respondent.

Legal representation in many of these cases may have had a meaningful impact on the outcome, since attorneys or accredited representatives can usually identify and argue the issues better on appeal and provide a greater chance of success for aliens who have meritorious cases. Representation also reduces procedural errors and enables the Board to provide a more effective and timely case review.

Organizations who provide legal service to immigrants normally face great obstacles in identifying, locating, and communicating with detained and unrepresented aliens in time to write and file an appeal brief. Under the BIA Pro Bono Project, EOIR will assist in identifying certain cases based upon criteria determined by the partnering volunteer groups. Once these cases are identified and reviewed, their summaries can then be distributed via e-mail to pro bono representatives anywhere in the United States. Volunteers who accept a particular case would then receive a copy of the file and additional time to file the appeal brief.

The Board invites anyone interested in volunteering for pro bono representation or in obtaining more information about this project to contact Molly McKenna at CLINIC, by phone at (202) 635-2567, or e-mail to:

Information about EOIR's overall pro bono efforts is available from Pro Bono Coordinator Steven Lang by phone at (703) 305-0470, by e-mail to, or on-line at EOIR's Web site at

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