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In light of shifting and non-transparent agency policies and practices in adjudicating Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases, CLINIC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in May of 2018 seeking records concerning USCIS procedures for adjudicating SIJS petitions (Form I-360) and SIJS-based adjustment of status applications. When USCIS failed to respond to the FOIA request after more than a year, CLINIC, represented by Dorsey & Whitney LLP, brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, CLINIC v. USCIS, 8:19-cv-01511 (D. Md.

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An immigration judge may issue an in absentia removal order if the Department of Homeland Security establishes by clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence that the respondent had written notice of the hearing and is removable as charged on the Notice to Appear. There are many reasons why a respondent may fail to appear at a removal hearing, including lack of notice of the hearing, sickness, a breakdown in transportation, limited or no English knowledge, or because the respondent is a child without the help of a responsible adult who can assist them in getting to the hearing.

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EOIR’s Office of Policy is a new office created to centralize communications, data collection, strategic planning, and agency policy and regulatory review and development. The Office of Policy is a highly politicized office, and many troubling policies are widely believed to have originated from the Office of Policy. The Office of Policy plays an enormous role in the functioning of EOIR. Despite its outsize role, there is very little publicly available information about the office, its staff, its functions, or the office’s interactions with the other components of EOIR.

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EOIR’s R&A Program accredits non-attorneys to represent noncitizens before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Once accredited by EOIR, “Accredited Representatives” may only provide immigration legal services through recognized organizations, which are non-profit, federally tax-exempt entities.

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An immigration judge may conduct removal hearings in person, by video conference, or by telephone conference. See INA § 240(b)(2), 8 C.F.R. § 1003.25(c). Increasingly, immigration practitioners, pro se respondents, and government attorneys have submitted motions to appear in court telephonically or via video themselves, to permit the respondent to appear in court telephonically or through video, or to allow witnesses to testify in court through either of these means.

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On May 22, 2018, CLINIC requested statistics related to SIJS Petitions Form I-360, including approvals, denials, and revocations, from 2008 to 2018. On August 12, 2018, CLINIC received these disclosures.

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Beginning October 2017, various media outlets, including the Washington Post, reported that immigration judges would be subject to new “numeric performance standards.” On April 2, 2018, CLINIC requested records on performance metrics for immigration judges from the DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review Office of the General Counsel. On July 24, 2018, CLINIC received these disclosures.