Investigating the Immigration Court System

Monday, March 14, 2022
Understanding the Role of Approximately 40 Assistant Chief Immigration Judges (ACIJs) Who Oversee All Immigration Courts.

This Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request seeks to uncover information about the hiring process for the position of Assistant Chief Immigration Judge (ACIJ) and the influence of these judges over the immigration courts.

What is the Role of an Assistant Chief Immigration Judge (ACIJ) and What Power Do They Wield in our Immigration Court System?

Currently, approximately 40 ACIJs are assigned to oversee immigration courts by region. These ACIJs help carry out the duties of the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ), such as establishing operating policies and overseeing policy implementation for the immigration courts. Moreover, ACIJs hear and render decisions in individual immigration cases.

Why is this FOIA Important and What Information Does It Seek to Obtain?

There is little public information regarding the hiring criteria for ACIJs or their role in determining policies for immigration courts across the country. In addition, the role of ACIJs in decision-making in individual immigration cases in unclear. Because of the weighty responsibility and authority inherent in the position of ACIJ and the related implications for the due process rights of noncitizens, the public has a right to know a great deal more about EOIR’s ACIJ program. 

Among other information, the FOIA to the Executive Office for Immigration Review seeks to establish the criteria by which ACIJs are hired and once hired, assigned to oversee certain immigration courts or reassigned to the bench as immigration judges or other positions within EOIR. The FOIA also seeks to obtain the criteria governing when ACIJs are assigned and/or removed from individual cases docketed before respective immigration courts and how they are expected to implement policies established by the Chief Immigration Judge; the Office of Policy; and the EOIR Office of the Director.

In order to gain a full picture of ACIJ staffing, the FOIA also seeks information about each hire for temporary and permanent ACIJ positions over a number of years, including the date of hire for each position, the courts managed by each ACIJ and the date each ACIJ left the position.

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