About the Research

A very wide range of source material was used in this report to document the actions that the government took, and did not take, to implement the 22 changes directed by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Although some of the information incorporated in the report is publicly available, other significant material was provided by EOIR only after a number of detailed inquiries by TRAC or on the basis of our repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

As a starting point, TRAC used the Attorney General’s August, 2006 memorandum laying out the improvement measures, and the memorandum issued by outgoing EOIR director Kevin Rooney in March, 2007 providing a status report on the implementation of the improvement measures.

TRAC analyzed a large number of publicly available Justice Department and EOIR documents during its research. These included press releases issued by EOIR from 2004 to the present, EOIR’s statistical yearbooks, Operating Policies and Procedures Memorandums, the Immigration Court and BIA practice manuals, and other material available on EOIR’s website or publicly available through other organizations. TRAC also searched through all notices published in the Federal Register during this period.

TRAC submitted detailed questions about the implementation of the 22 points to EOIR on three occasions between May and August of 2009. Early in the process EOIR stated that the agency would not respond to the questions, stating that it “believed that the questions were best handled through a formal Freedom of Information Act request.” After TRAC responded by pointing out that we were not seeking documents but rather asking questions about the status of a “reform” initiative that was publicly announced two years earlier, EOIR agreed to provide responses “to some questions.” For each series of questions, the agency took four weeks or longer to respond.

The Justice Department has not responded to TRAC's inquiries for information about the "comprehensive review" that it said had been conducted by the Deputy Attorney General and the Associate Attorney General in the months leading up to the August 2006 announcement about the proposed "improvement measures" although it did claim it was based on more than 200 interviews of stakeholders, an online survey or hundreds of other participants and the analysis of "thousands of pages of materials in an effort to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the immigration court system."

TRAC also reviewed Department of Justice budget submissions over the last decade and Congressional action on each of these, along with information on EOIR personnel published by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or obtained under FOIA. TRAC also sought and received internal EOIR records on each recorded case handled by the Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals since 1986, and as a result of ongoing litigation under FOIA brought by TRAC against the Department of Justice has received detailed records on appeals from the Board of Immigration Appeals to the federal appellate courts handled by the Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL).

In addition, TRAC conducted interviews with a wide variety of additional immigration court stakeholders, scholars and other relevant sources. This included several interviews with representatives of the National Association of Immigration Judges, the immigration judges union, to gain a point-by-point analysis from the NAIJ on the implementation of the improvement measures. Interviews were also conducted with representatives of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF), as well as private immigration lawyers; representatives of leading legal immigration assistance non-profit organizations, such as Catholic Legal Immigration Network; immigration law scholars who have published studies on related topics; representatives of the National Judicial College; and representatives of state bar associations that administer state immigration law certification examinations.

Prior to the publication of this report, TRAC’s proposed findings were provided to EOIR and NAIJ for comment.