The 3 Decisions Made by the Board of Immigration Appeals and What They Mean

The 3 Decisions Made by the Board of Immigration Appeals and What They Mean

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is an administrative body of the government that holds the highest power in terms of making decisions about what immigration laws mean and how they should be applied. In other words, if you have received a decision from an immigration judge and plan to appeal it as far as possible up the court system, then your case might eventually end up being heard by the BIA. This also means that, in general, the BIA is often your last chance for getting an immigration judge’s decision overturned. Unlike regular courts, the BIA does not typically hear cases in a courtroom. Instead, they conduct “paper review” of cases—meaning they read all of the court documents and evidence in your cases file in order to make a decision. If your immigration case is about to be heard by the BIA, then it’s important to know what to expect. The BIA can make 3 different types of decisions and each can mean something different for you. Let’s discuss. 1) Precedent Decisions Precedent decisions are published by the BIA and are legally binding on all immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officers. But, BIA decisions are subject to review and can be can be overturned by the federal courts, the Attorney General, changes in the law, or later BIA precedent decisions. However, it’s important to note that federal judges tend to give more weight to precedent decisions and are therefore less likely to overturn them than others. This is because precedent decisions, by their nature, are meant to serve as an example or guide for other similar cases. This means that, fortunately or unfortunately, if the BIA has issued you a precedent decision, then it is unlikely a federal court will change it. 2) Indexed Decisions Unlike precedent decisions, indexed decisions aren’t officially published and, although are valuable in the sense that they may be used as a guide or resource for other similar cases, are not meant to serve as actual precedent. If these decisions are later reviewed by a federal judge, then it is more likely that they could be overturned than if it were a precedent decision. 3) Unpublished Decisions In comparison to precedent and indexed decisions, unpublished decisions carry the least weight. Unpublished decisions are not published and federal courts are the least likely to defer to these than the other kinds because they are not meant to serve as precedent or even as a guide for other cases. In other words, unpublished decisions are deemed “factual,” meaning that the decision is only the result of the specific facts of the case and isn’t meant to be applied to others. However, unpublished decisions can be useful for someone about to have their case heard before the BIA. There are ways to gain access to them (e.g. paying a fee if you are an individual or via your immigration lawyer whose firm already paid for them) and read through them for cases similar to yours so you can anticipate what might happen and be better prepared. Consult with a trusted immigration lawyer. If your immigration case is in the appeals process, then hopefully you have been working with a lawyer to make sure everything is handled properly. Immigration issues are particularly complex and their outcomes can permanently impact your and your family’s lives. It’s for these reasons that it is essential to have a trusted and experienced immigration lawyer by your side every step of the way. At Landerholm Immigration, we understand just how complex and important immigration cases are and we want to help you obtain the best outcome possible. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today!
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