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Blandon Law Immigration

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Board of Immigration Appeals

     Clients often wonder why one case is handled differently than another case.  The answer sometimes lies with the relationship between the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Department of Homeland Security ("the Service" including the Citizenship and Immigration Service, Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
     The BIA reviews cases from Immigration Judges as well as those from the Service.  Based on BIA decisions, immigration attorneys advise clients how they might fair in an appeal.  The BIA decisions are also available publicly through the Virtual Library of the Executive Office of Immigration Review.
     The BIA wields great power as it interprets the immigration laws.  It is not bound by precedent decisions of the Service or policy memoranda that have not been incorporated into regulations.  In this way, the BIA is the first fighting ground where a foreigner's case has been handled by the Service or an Immigration Judge in a way that is contrary to law. 
     Interestingly, the Service is only bound by decisions that the BIA designates as precedent decisions.  Therefore -- even though BIA decisions express the correct interpretation of the law -- the Citizenship and Immigration Serice is allowed to (and does) decide other cases in a manner contrary to the BIA's explicit guidelines.  Likewise, Immigration Judges do make decisions that are contrary to BIA holdings.  The only course of action left for the foreigner, expensive as it may be:  appeal.

General Frequently Asked Questions

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