Comments on Proposed Rule for Recognition of Organizations and Accreditation of Non-Attorney Representatives
The Immigration and Nationality Law Committee submitted comments on the Department of Justice’s proposed changes to the Board of Immigration Appeals recognition and accreditation regulations [RIN 1125-AA72; EOIR Docket No. 176] . The Committee largely supported the proposed changes as consistent with its general support of efforts by the federal government to expand access to qualified representation for immigrants. The Committee noted that the proposed changes would provide greater oversight of recognized organizations and accredited representatives and provide clearer channels to discipline representatives and organizations which are not competently representing their clients. The Committee further supported the change from the “good moral character” requirement for applicants for accreditation to a “character and fitness” requirement, thereby making the accreditation process more closely aligned with the process for attorneys to be admitted to their state bars to practice law. However, the Committee expressed concern about the government’s stated intention to include an applicant’s immigration status as part of the inquiry into the applicant’s character and fitness, arguing that DOJ was not justified in seeing an “inherent conflict” for a representative to appear before the same agency that may be adjudicating his or her own immigration application. The Committee cited the following examples to the contrary: no ethical rules prevent divorce attorneys from seeking a divorce before the court that adjudicates such cases, nor is there a conflict for an employment lawyer to appear before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if she has faced discrimination in the workplace herself. Moreover, in the immigration context, it is often the case that individuals who are themselves from immigrant backgrounds are more likely to have foreign language abilities necessary to provide linguistically and culturally competent representation.