Document Type


Publication Date



The Board of Immigration Appeals is on the verge of making a tragic mistake, trading away a key element of fair adjudication-the written opinion-for the sake of what it hopes will be greater administrative efficiency. The cost of eliminating written adjudication is too great, and the Board has given no indication that it has sufficiently canvassed less drastic alternatives.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (the "Board") is the primary appellate body for immigration law. The "staple" of its work is to decide appeals from decisions of Immigration Judges in removal proceedings, though it also hears appeals in several other categories, such as decisions of Immigration Judges on petitions for approval of preferred immigration status by virtue of close relationship to a United States citizen or permanent alien.

At present, the fifteen-member Board hears appeals in panels of three. The panel issues a written decision in every appeal, and this decision must "discuss the evidence and the reasons for the Board's determination." It may summarily dismiss an appeal only in very limited circumstances: when the appellant seeks relief from an order that he or she previously requested, when the notice of appeal specifies no reasons for the appeal, and when the appeal is frivolous and dilatory. The "frivolous" appeal exception is itself a narrow one, which does not encompass summary dismissal simply because the appeal lacks a legal basis; advocates are encouraged to argue in good faith for the modification or reversal of existing law.

Recently, however, the Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR"), of which the Board is a part, proposed a radical change of procedure. Under its new proposal to establish a "streamlined appellate review procedure," the Board would issue summary affirmances in many, perhaps most, of its cases, without writing opinions.

Publication Citation

12 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 531-541 (1998)