The 3 Things Your Team Should Know About Immigration Law, But Doesn’t

Part 2

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Transcript of Video 2

Welcome back!! How’s it going with the acronyms? I hope that yesterday’s session has empowered your workplace and gave you a common language that everyone can use to make things more efficient and give a better experience for your team and for your clients.

Today we are going to focus on government agencies, and tomorrow we are going to dive in to Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing along with some other important forms of relief, so you won’t want to miss it!

Government Agencies

Now that you know some of the main acronyms, it’s important to know how immigration works. There are several agencies involved, and the agencies have sub-agencies, so it’s a bit confusing. The more you work on cases and in the law firm, the more you will get a feel for these agencies and what they do. The agencies that we are going to talk about today are a non-exhaustive list. There are a lot of government agencies that you may have to work with as you do this work, so this is just a starting point to give you the big picture.

In 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was created to bring together several different agencies. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security is the umbrella of many agencies, all of which have different roles. Even within the agencies, there can be what you could essentially call sub-agencies, so there is a lot to know. To get a full view of the DHS organizational, chart, there’s a link here.

Also, the Department of Homeland Security and it’s agencies are just a piece of the bigger puzzle of immigration. Because you also have immigration courts- and the immigration courts are not run by the Department of Homeland Security. They are run by the Department of Justice. So the immigration judges are not employed by the US Department of Homeland Security, but the US Department of Homeland Security does have a presence in the court because they are the immigration prosecutors, if you will. They are the ones that are trying to have our clients deported. The DHS lawyers work for ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is one of the agencies in the US department of homeland security.

Let’s take a look at this visually, because it does help to see it so that way you can make sense of it:


Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Agencies

All of the following are agencies / branches within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS or CIS)

  • This is where we file the following applications. Depending on the different applications, they are filed at different USCIS locations (also called USCIS lockboxes and USCIS service centers). If an interview is needed, it is held at the local USCIS office.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • Includes ERO and OCC

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO)

  • They are called “officers” and are often referred to as “ICE officer” or “ERO officers”

  • They are either on a “detained docket” or “non-detained” docket.

    • If they work on the “detained docket” or “in detention” then their offices are located in the immigration detention centers

    • If they work on the “non-detained docket” then their officers are located in the ERO field offices

  • They are assigned cases by the A-number. In order to figure out who your client’s officer is, you need to know the A-number.

Office of Chief Counsel (OCC)

  • DHS lawyers

    • Also referred to as “trial attorneys” or “TAs”

    • They handle cases at the IJ (Immigration Judge) and BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals) levels

  • They are the “prosecutors” for the Department of Homeland Security

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

  • At every border, including airports

Department of State (DOS)

National Visa Center (NVC)

  • Agency that handles Consular Processing

US consulates abroad

Department of Justice (DOJ)

Note that the Department of Justice is completely separate from the Department of Homeland Security


  • Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is the immigration court system.

    • Often called the “IJ level.” IJ means Immigration Judge.

  • Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

  • The judges work for the Department of Justice, not for the Department of Homeland Security

Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL)

  • DHS lawyers at circuit court level

    • Based in Washington D.C.

Federal Courts

  • US Court of Appeals

  • Circuit Level Courts

    • There are 13 Circuits

    • Each circuit contains a few states.

    • This is where immigration cases are appealed to if they lose at the IJ and BIA levels

You can get a map through the link here

Whew, we made it through the major government branches that you need to know about! Hopefully this helps guide you and your team as you prepare filings for the courts, USCIS, and more!!

Do not miss tomorrow when we get into Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing, and much more!


Watch for Video 3 - available on Wednesday, March 27th