Legal Representation Makes a Difference! Results of the BIA Pro Bono Project

The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) Pro Bono Project began in 2001 to match respondents without representation with pro bono (free) counsel. More than a decade after the project began, results have shown that the Project had “an average success rate of 87% in matching pro se respondents with pro bono counsel” and that “pro se litigants who are represented through the Project were more likely to obtain a favorable outcome in their cases than those who do not receive representation.” In particular, “respondent [filed] appeals represented through the Project . . . were resolved in the respondent’s favor approximately 31% of the time – double the overall success rate of respondent appeals before the Board, and triple the success rate of unrepresented respondent appeals.”

The project assisted both detained and non-detained respondents appealing decisions in the substantive areas of asylum, withholding of removal, CAT relief, and cancellation of removal. The contributions of the pro bono attorneys were invaluable. As the report explains:

“Immigration law is complex even for seasoned attorneys; therefore, an unrepresented respondent, particularly one who is detained with limited access to legal materials, is rarely able to hone in on the legal issues that make a difference in his or her case. A brief written by competent counsel lends focus to a respondent’s immigration case and makes his or her appeal stronger.”

BIA judges and staff attorneys were asked a series of evaluation questions, including whether “pro bono counsel’s appearance in this particular case increase the likelihood of a favorable Board decision for this respondent.” What we should also ask is whether representation by immigration counsel in the immigration court proceedings would have increased the likelihood of a favorable decision by the Immigration Judge.

Participating non-governmental organizations include, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (“CLINIC”), American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”), the American Immigration Council (“AIC”), Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (“CAIR”), and the National Immigration Project (“NIP”) of the National Lawyers Guild.

See the link below to learn more about the BIA Pro Bono Project, including how respondents are matched up with pro bono attorneys.

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At the law offices of Mark J. Shmueli, our attorneys help clients find solutions to their immigration matters in the Washington, DC metro area, including Takoma Park, the District of Columbia. Silver Spring, Bethesda, Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, as well as nationwide and around the world.

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