The United States’ immigration law system is complex. Currently, immigration courts in the United States are overseen by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). The office is a subsidiary of the Department of Justice. The Attorney General of the United States is the cabinet member overseeing the system. The current system is comprised of lower immigration courts around the country. Appeals from the immigration courts are adjudicated by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Falls Church, Virginia. Decisions from the Board are appealed to federal circuit courts with jurisdiction.

Immigration Courts

There are fifty-eight immigration courts around the country. Their jurisdiction is limited geographically by zip code. Hearings before the courts are conducted by immigration judges. Immigration judges are selected by the Attorney General. Immigration judges are attorneys who are administrative hearing officers. Every immigration court is managed by the Chief Immigration Judge, who is also appointed.

Immigration judges hear motions and conduct master and individual hearings. They accept evidence and admit it into the record. Immigration judges have broad discretion over proceedings and may question respondents in removal proceedings.

Immigration judges are also authorized to hear motions to reopen, continue, or terminate proceedings.  For a list of immigration courts, visit this link.

The Board of Immigration Appeals

The Board is the appellate body in the system. It hears appeals, motions, and appeals in some decisions of administrative agencies. There are 21 Board Members including a Chairman and a Vice Chairman. The Board issues decisions either by single members or a panel of judges. Its decisions are binding on all immigration judges around the country. These decisions are either published binding decisions or non-binding decisions. The binding decisions are published online and organized through volumes. These decisions also include published decisions by the Administrative Appeals Office, the appellate body for the Department of Homeland Security.

The Board is authorized to hear motions to reopen, reconsider, or terminate proceedings.

Visit this link to see the Board’s structure.

The Federal Courts

Federal courts have jurisdiction to review decisions from the Board of Immigration Appeals. Federal Courts may review final decisions of the board. The courts also review the Board’s decisions relating to Motions to Reopen, Motions to Reconsider, and Motions to Terminate.

The initial step to take to invoke federal review s to file a Petition for Review with the federal court with jurisdiction over your case. There are 13 circuit courts around the country, including the DC and federal circuits located in the District of Colombia. Federal courts also have jurisdiction to review decisions of District Courts relating to immigration petitions.

As you can probably see from the above discussion, the system is very complex. You should hire a competent immigration attorney to help you navigate it.