Immigration Agencies

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

USCIS: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that oversees immigration in the United States. USCIS provides accurate and useful information regarding granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system. USCIS’s strategic goals include:

  • Strengthening the security and integrity of the immigration system.
  • Providing effective customer-oriented immigration benefit and information services.
  • Supporting immigrants’ integration and participation in American civic culture.
  • Promoting flexible and sound immigration policies and programs.
  • Strengthening the infrastructure supporting the USCIS mission.
  • Operating as a high-performance organization that promotes a highly talented workforce and a dynamic work culture.

USCIS has also been engaged for several years on a sustained campaign to warn the public of immigration fraud. More information is available at www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams. USCIS also employs Community Relations Officers at all of their District Offices who’s job it is to liaise with local agencies and the larger community.

Within USCIS, the Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Unit is a specialized unit that works to resolve background check information and other concerns that surface during the processing of immigration benefit applications and petitions. Resolution often requires communication with law enforcement or intelligence agencies to make sure that the information is relevant to the applicant or petitioner at hand and, if so, whether the information would have an impact on benefit eligibility for the benefit.

USCIS has formed a partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in which FDNS pursues administrative inquiries into most application and petition fraud, while ICE conducts criminal investigations into major fraud conspiracies.

FDNS officers are located in every USCIS Service Center, District, Field and Asylum Offices. FDNS officers are also located in other government agencies.

ICE: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) primary mission is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration. This mission is executed through the enforcement of more than 400 federal statutes and focuses on smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combating the illegal movement of people and goods.

Within ICE, the Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) enforces the nation’s immigration laws in a fair and effective manner. It identifies and apprehends removable immigrants, detains individuals when necessary and removes unauthorized immigrants from the United States. ERO prioritizes the apprehension, arrest and removal of convicted criminals, those who pose a threat to national security, fugitives and recent border entrants. Individuals seeking asylum also work with ERO. In addition, ERO transports removable immigrants from point to point, manages immigrants in custody or in an alternative to detention program, provides access to legal resources and representatives of advocacy groups and removes individuals from the United States who have been ordered deported.

Also within ICE, the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) represents the U.S. government in exclusion, deportation and removal proceedings before the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. OPLA attorneys prosecute immigrants who have committed crimes, terrorists and human rights abusers. It also provides critical legal support to ICE components focusing on customs, worksite enforcement, ethics, employment law, tort claims and administrative law issues.

CBP: The U.S. Custom’s and Border Protection (CBP) has 60,000 employees making it one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations. The CBP is responsible for protecting the U.S. against terrorists and facilitating international travel and trade. As the world’s first full-service border entity, CBP takes a comprehensive approach to border management and control, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection into one coordinated and supportive activity.

US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE – EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR IMMIGRATION REVIEW

The primary mission of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is to fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly adjudicate immigration cases. The U.S. Attorney General has empowered the EOIR to conduct immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings.

BIA: The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is located at EOIR headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia and is the highest administrative body for interpreting and applying U.S. immigration law. It is directed by a chairman and vice chairman and consists of approximately 15 board members. The BIA usually resolves appeals by conducting a “paper review” of cases which usually do not require court proceedings. However in some cases, the BIA may order oral hearings if it requires additional information before rendering a decision.

The BIA has nationwide jurisdiction to hear immigration and Department of Homeland Security appeals from certain decisions rendered by immigration judges and by district directors of the DHS. These are appeals for a wide variety of proceedings in which the United States is one party and the other party is an immigrant, citizen, or business firm. In addition, the BIA is responsible for the recognition of organizations and accreditation of representatives requesting permission to practice before DHS, the immigration courts, and the BIA.

BIA decisions are binding unless modified or overruled by the U.S. Attorney General or a federal court decision. The majority of appeals reaching the BIA involve orders of removal and applications for relief from removal. Other common cases before the BIA include the exclusion of immigrants applying for admission to the United States, petitions to classify the status of immigrant relatives for the issuance of preference immigrant visas, fines imposed upon carriers for the violation of immigration laws, and motions for reopening or reconsidering BIA decisions.

OCIJ: The Office of the Chief Immigration Judge (OCIJ) is headed by the chief immigration judge who establishes operating policies for the immigration courts and oversees policy implementation in each of those courts. OCIJ supervises and directs the immigration courts, which handle more than 300,000 immigration matters annually. OCIJ sets policies for more than 230 immigration judges located in over 55 U.S. immigration courts.

Immigration judges preside over cases involving the removal of undocumented immigrants. Their decisions are final but can be appealed or certified to the Board of Immigration Appeals. For incarcerated individuals, the OCIJ has launched the “Criminal Aliens Institutional Hearing Program” aimed at determining the immigration status of detained immigrants. This program is available in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, select municipalities, and federal prisons.

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