Until last week, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which hears and adjudicates appeals from the immigration courts, affirmatively solicited amicus briefs from an anti-immigrant hate group.
Yes, you read that right: They asked a hate group for its legal opinions.
According to Matt Adams of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), the BIA has maintained the practice of soliciting amicus briefs on certain cases from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) for at least a couple years.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled FAIR a hate group because FAIR’s “demonizing propaganda, aimed primarily at Latinos and often Catholics; its ties to other hate groups and hiring of their members; and its push for laws promoting racial discord around the country have been instrumental in creating the anti-immigrant backlash America is currently suffering through.”
“FAIR is an extremist hate group that has white supremacist roots,” said Eunice Cho of SPLC. “For the board to be affirmatively soliciting briefs from them undermines the BIA’s professional reputation, suggests impropriety, and lends legitimacy to FAIR’s extreme views.”
“We’re happy to see that the agency appears to recognize how inappropriate it is to solicit FAIR’s involvement and have now modified their practice to elevate the level of professionalism of the proceedings.”
NWIRP has brought attention to this issue in the past. Most recently, SPLC and NWIRP joined together to author an amicus brief calling on the BIA to end the harmful practice of soliciting amicus briefs from FAIR. These two groups, plus six other organizations (including the Center for New Community) filed the brief earlier this month in In Re Silva-Trevino, a potentially significant case involving criminal law and its impact on immigration status.
The brief argues that BIA’s practice “inappropriately bolsters and legitimizes the positions espoused by FAIR, creates an appearance of impropriety and preferential treatment, and improperly suggests that FAIR is in a special position to influence the Board.” The brief also argues that the Department of Homeland Security is able to competently represent itself in these proceedings, so there is no need for the BIA to solicit additional briefs to support DHS’s position. Even if the need did exist, there are numerous academic and policy organizations that could offer their opinion on the matter without promoting anti-immigrant hate.
These arguments may have been successful. On June 22nd, just a few days after the NWIRP and SPLC brief was filed, the BIA posted information on its website regarding a new process in which it will solicit amicus briefs from the public for certain cases. It seems this process will replace the BIA’s prior policy of affirmatively soliciting briefs directly from FAIR and other organizations. While FAIR will still be able to submit briefs as a member of the public, the BIA will no longer solicit its legal opinion directly.
Adams of NWIRP was among the advocates who praised BIA’s decision.
“We’re happy to see that the agency appears to recognize how inappropriate it is to solicit FAIR’s involvement and have now modified their practice to elevate the level of professionalism of the proceedings,” he said.
Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Program Manager at Center for New Community.