Amici curiae are retired Immigration Judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals, who seek to address the Attorney General’s certified questions regarding administrative closure. Amici were appointed to serve at immigration courts around the United States and with the Board, and at senior positions with the Executive Office of Immigration Review. From their many combined years of service, amici have intimate knowledge of the operation of the immigration courts, including the importance of various procedural mechanisms to maintain efficient dockets. As explained in detail, administrative closure, when used judiciously, is a critical tool for immigration judges in managing their dockets. Without tools like administrative closure, immigration judges would be hampered, unable to set aside those matters that do not yet require court intervention and thus prevented from focusing on the removal cases that demand immediate attention.

In particular, the Honorable Sarah M. Burr served as a U.S. Immigration Judge in New York from 1994 and was appointed as Assistant Chief Immigration Judge in charge of the New York, Fishkill, Ulster, Bedford Hills and Varick Street immigration courts in 2006. She served in this capacity until January 2011, when she returned to the bench full-time until she retired in 2012. Prior to her appointment, she worked as a staff attorney for the Criminal Defense Division of the Legal Aid Society in its trial and appeals bureaus and also as the supervising attorney in its immigration unit. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Immigrant Justice Corps.

The Honorable Jeffrey S. Chase served as an Immigration Judge in New York City from 1995 to 2007 and was an attorney advisor and senior legal advisor at the Board from 2007 to 2017. He is presently in private practice as an independent consultant on immigration law, and Page 2 of 32 is of counsel to the law firm of DiRaimondo & Masi in New York City. Prior to his appointment, he was a sole practitioner and volunteer staff attorney at Human Rights First. He also was the recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s annual pro bono award in 1994 and chaired AILA’s Asylum Reform Task Force.

The Honorable Bruce J. Einhorn served as a United States Immigration Judge in Los Angeles from 1990 to 2007. He now serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, and a Visiting Professor of International, Immigration, and Refugee Law at the University of Oxford, England. He is also a contributing op-ed columnist at D.C.-based The Hill newspaper. He is a member of the Bars of Washington D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Honorable Cecelia M. Espenoza served as a Member of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) Board of Immigration Appeals from 2000-2003 and in the Office of the General Counsel from 2003-2017 where she served as Senior Associate General Counsel, Privacy Officer, Records Officer and Senior FOIA Counsel. She is presently in private practice as an independent consultant on immigration law, and a member of the World Bank’s Access to Information Appeals Board. Prior to her EOIR appointments, she was a law professor at St. Mary’s University (1997-2000) and the University of Denver College of Law (1990-1997) where she taught Immigration Law and Crimes and supervised students in the Immigration and Criminal Law Clinics. She has published several articles on Immigration Law. She is a graduate of the University of Utah and the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. She was recognized as the University of Utah Law School’s Alumna of the Year in 2014 and received the Outstanding Service Award from the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Page 3 of 32 Association in 1997 and the Distinguished Lawyer in Public Service Award from the Utah State Bar in 1989-1990.

The Honorable Noel Ferris served as an Immigration Judge in New York from 1994 to 2013 and an attorney advisor to the Board from 2013 to 2016, until her retirement. Previously, she served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1985 to 1990 and as Chief of the Immigration Unit from 1987 to 1990.

The Honorable John F. Gossart, Jr. served as a U.S. Immigration Judge from 1982 until his retirement in 2013 and is the former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. At the time of his retirement, he was the third most senior immigration judge in the United States. Judge Gossart was awarded the Attorney General Medal by then Attorney General Eric Holder. From 1975 to 1982, he served in various positions with the former Immigration Naturalization Service, including as general attorney, naturalization attorney, trial attorney, and deputy assistant commissioner for naturalization. He is also the co-author of the National Immigration Court Practice Manual, which is used by all practitioners throughout the United States in immigration court proceedings. From 1997 to 2016, Judge Gossart was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law teaching immigration law, and more recently was an adjunct professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law also teaching immigration law. He has been a faculty member of the National Judicial College, and has guest lectured at numerous law schools, the Judicial Institute of Maryland and the former Maryland Institute for the Continuing Education of Lawyers. He is also a past board member of the Immigration Law Section of the Federal Bar Association. Judge Gossart served in the United States Army from 1967 to 1969 and is a veteran of the Vietnam War. Page 4 of 32

The Honorable William P. Joyce served as an Immigration Judge in Boston, Massachusetts. Subsequent to retiring from the bench, he has been the Managing Partner of Joyce and Associates with 1,500 active immigration cases. Prior to his appointment to the bench, he served as legal counsel to the Chief Immigration Judge. Judge Joyce also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Associate General Counsel for enforcement for INS. He is a graduate of Georgetown School of Foreign Service and Georgetown Law School.

The Honorable Edward Kandler was appointed as an Immigration Judge in October 1998. Prior to his appointment to the Immigration Court in Seattle in June 2004, he served as an Immigration Judge at the Immigration Court in San Francisco from August 2000 to June 2004 and at the Immigration Court in New York City from October 1998 to August 2000. Judge Kandler received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971 from California State University at San Francisco, a Master of Arts degree in 1974 from California State University at Hayward, and a Juris Doctorate in 1981 from the University of California at Davis. Judge Kandler served as an assistant U.S. trustee for the Western District of Washington from 1988 to 1998. He worked as an attorney for the law firm of Chinello, Chinello, Shelton & Auchard in Fresno, California, in 1988. From 1983 to 1988, Judge Kandler served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California. He was also with the San Francisco law firm of Breon, Galgani, Godino from 1981 to 1983. Judge Kandler is a member of the California Bar.

The Honorable Carol King served as an Immigration Judge from 1995 to 2017 in San Francisco and was a temporary Board member for six months between 2010 and 2011. She previously practiced immigration law for ten years, both with the Law Offices of Marc Van Der Page 5 of 32 Hout and in her own private practice. She also taught immigration law for five years at Golden Gate University School of Law and is currently on the faculty of the Stanford University Law School Trial Advocacy Program. Judge King now works as a Removal Defense Strategist, advising attorneys and assisting with research and writing related to complex removal defense issues.

The Honorable Lory D. Rosenberg served on the Board from 1995 to 2002. She then served as Director of the Defending Immigrants Partnership of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association from 2002 until 2004. Prior to her appointment, she worked with the American Immigration Law Foundation from 1991 to 1995. She was also an adjunct Immigration Professor at American University Washington College of Law from 1997 to 2004. She is the founder of IDEAS Consulting and Coaching, LLC., a consulting service for immigration lawyers, and is the author of Immigration Law and Crimes. She currently works as Senior Advisor for the Immigrant Defenders Law Group.

The Honorable Susan Roy started her legal career as a Staff Attorney at the Board of Immigration Appeals, a position she received through the Attorney General Honors Program. She served as Assistant Chief Counsel, National Security Attorney, and Senior Attorney for the DHS Office of Chief Counsel in Newark, NJ, and then became an Immigration Judge, also in Newark. Sue has been in private practice for nearly 5 years, and two years ago, opened her own immigration law firm. Sue is the NJ AILA Chapter Liaison to EOIR, is the Vice Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the NJ State Bar Association, and in 2016 was awarded the Outstanding Prop Bono Attorney of the Year by the NJ Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Page 6 of 32

The Honorable Paul W. Schmidt served as an Immigration Judge from 2003 to 2016 in Arlington, virginia. He previously served as Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals from 1995 to 2001, and as a Board Member from 2001 to 2003. He authored the landmark decision Matter of Kasinga, 21 I&N Dec. 357 (BIA 1995) extending asylum protection to victims of female genital mutilation. He served as Deputy General Counsel of the former INS from 1978 to 1987, serving as Acting General Counsel from 1986-87 and 1979-81. He was the managing partner of the Washington, D.C. office of Fragomen, DelRey & Bernsen from 1993 to 1995, and practiced business immigration law with the Washington, D.C. office of Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue from 1987 to 1992, where he was a partner from 1990 to 1992. He served as an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in 1989, and at Georgetown University Law Center from 2012 to 2014 and 2017 to present. He was a founding member of the International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARLJ), which he presently serves as Americas Vice President. He also serves on the Advisory Board of AYUDA, and assists the National Immigrant Justice Center/Heartland Alliance on various projects; and speaks, writes and lectures at various forums throughout the country on immigration law topics. He also created the immigration law blog immigrationcourtside.com.

The Honorable Polly A. Webber served as an Immigration Judge from 1995 to 2016 in San Francisco, with details in facilities in Tacoma, Port Isabel, Boise, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Orlando. Previously, she practiced immigration law from 1980 to 1995 in her own private practice in San Jose. She was a national officer in AILA from 1985 to 1991 and served as National President of AILA from 1989 to 1990. She has also taught immigration and nationality law at both Santa Clara University School of Law and Lincoln Law School. Page 7 of 32

The Honorable Gustavo D. Villageliu served as a Board of Immigration Appeals Member from July 1995 to April 2003. He then served as Senior Associate General Counsel for the Executive Office for Immigration Review until he retired in 2011, helping manage FOIA, Privacy and Security as EOIR Records Manager. Before becoming a Board Member, Villageliu was an Immigration Judge in Miami, with both detained and non-detained dockets, as well as the Florida Northern Region Institutional Criminal Alien Hearing Docket 1990-95. Mr. Villageliu was a member of the Iowa, Florida and District of Columbia Bars. He graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1977. After working as a Johnson County Attorney prosecutor intern in Iowa City, Iowa he joined the Board as a staff attorney in January 1978, specializing in war criminal, investor, and criminal alien cases.


ARGUMENT………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7

I. Immigration Judges and the Board have inherent and delegated authority to order administrative closure in a case ……………………………………………………………………………… 7

A. Federal courts have recognized that judges possess an inherent authority to order administrative closure………………………………………………………………………… 8

B. Regulations establishing and governing Immigration Judges ratify their inherent authority to order administrative closure. …………………………………………. 9

II. The Board’s decisions in Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), and Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017), articulate the appropriate standard for administrative closure……………………………………………………………………….. 13

A. The legal standard set forth in Avetisyan and W-Y-U- gives the Immigration Judge the correct degree of independence in deciding motions for administrative closure. ……………………………………………………………………………… 13

B. The facts and disposition of the case at bar show that the legal standard under Avetisyan and W-Y-U- is working correctly. ………………………………………………… 16

III. Fundamental principles of administrative law hold that the Attorney General cannot change the regulations that grant this authority without proper notice and comment rulemaking. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 18

A. Practical docket management considerations weigh in favor of retaining administrative closure. ……………………………………………………………………………… 19

B. Due process considerations also weigh in favor of retaining administrative closure. …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 21

IV. Options such as continuances, dismissal without prejudice, and termination without prejudice, are suboptimal as compared to administrative closure. …………………………….. 22

V. There is no reason to attach legal consequences to administrative closure. ………………… 25


Former IJs and Retired BIA Members – FINAL Castro-Tum Brief


  • Thanks again to all retired my colleagues. What a great opportunity to “reunite online” in support of a critically important cause affecting the American Justice System!
  • Special thanks to Judge Jeffrey Chase for spearheading the effort and getting all of us together!
  • “Super Special Thanks” to the amazing Steven H. Schulman, Partner at Akin Gump DC and to Akin Gump for donating your valuable time and expertise and making this happen!








For some time now, immigrant advocates have been fearing/expecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to use his authority to “certify” BIA cases to himself as a means to undo or restrict BIA administrative precedents that might be helpful or favorable to migrants.

For those new to the practice, the U.S. immigration Court, including both the trial courts and the Appellate Division (“BIA”), is a “wholly owed subsidiary” of the Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice. The Attorney General gets to select U.S. Immigration Judges and BIA Appellate Judges, and they basically serve in their judicial positions at his pleasure (although, for the most part, they can’t be removed from their positions as DOJ Attorneys without cause — in other words, they can  be reassigned to non-judicial duties at the same pay and grade largely “at will”).

Additionally, the Attorney General has the authority to promulgate regulations governing the jurisdiction and authority of the Immigration Courts and the BIA. Beyond that, he can actually change the result in individual cases with which he disagrees by a regulatory device known as “certifying” cases to himself for final decision. This process, of course, also applies to BIA precedents, which otherwise are binding on U.S. Immigration Judges nationwide.

The process of certification has now begun. Today, Sessions “certified” a BIA case to himself for the apparent purpose of stripping or limiting the authority of the BIA and Immigration Judges to “administratively close” cases. “Administrative closure” is a method of removing the case from the court’s active docket (significantly, it then no longer counts toward the “backlog” of pending cases).

It is normally used for cases that are pending for adjudication somewhere within the USCIS. It had also been widely used, particularly during the Obama Administration, as a means of implementing decisions by the ICE Chief Counsel to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” or “PD” in particular humanitarian situations, as well as a way for removing so-called “DACA” grants from the courts’ active dockets.

The particular case certified is Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 87 (A.G. 2018). The BIA’s decision is unpublished (“non-precedcential”). However, Session’s real target appears to be the BIA’s precedents Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), and Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017), which gave Immigration Judges at least some independent authority to administratively close cases over the objection of a party (although, importantly, not the authority to close a case for “PD” without ICE Counsel’s consent). While Matter of Castro-Tum asks for briefing on a number of questions, it seems highly unlikely that Sessions went to the trouble of certifying the case to reaffirm, continue, or expand the use of “administrative closing.”

“Administrative closing” was initiated by the first EOIR Chief immigration Judge, the late William R. Robie, as a way of clearing court dockets of cases that were not actually under active consideration before the Immigration Court. It has been an effective way or reducing and prioritizing immigration Court dockets that has presented few problems in administration. Its elimination or restriction could lead to more “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” (“ADR”) or bigger backlogs.

Some advocates have even suggested that Sessions actually intends to maximize the Immigration Court’s already huge 660,000 case backlog to support a request for 1) a dramatic immediate increase in immigration Judge funding, or 2) a dramatic expansion of the number of individuals subject to so-called “Administrative (or “Expedited”) Removal” by DHS Enforcement officers without recourse to the immigration Court, or both.

Stay tuned to see which BIA precedents might be next on Session’s “chopping block.”

Here’s a copy of Matter of Castro-Tum:


Cite as 27 I&N Dec. 187 (A.G. 2018) Interim Decision #3911

Matter of Reynaldo CASTRO-TUM, Respondent

Decided by Attorney General January 4, 2018

U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General

The Attorney General referred the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals to himself for review of issues relating to the authority to administratively close immigration proceedings, ordering that the case be stayed during the pendency of his review.


Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 1003.l(h)(l)(i) (2017), I direct the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) to refer this case to me for review of its decision. The Board’s decision in this matter is automatically stayed pending my review. See Matter of Haddam, A.G. Order No. 2380-2001 (Jan. 19, 2001). To assist me in my review, I invite the parties to these proceedings and interested amici to submit briefs on points relevant to the disposition of this case, including:

1. Do Immigration Judges and the Board have the authority, under any statute, regulation, or delegation of authority from the Attorney General, to order administrative closure in a case? If so, do the Board’s decisions in Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), and Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017), articulate the appropriate standard for administrative closure?

2. If I determine that Immigration Judges and the Board currently lack the authority to order administrative closure, should I delegate such authority? Alternatively, if I determine that Immigration Judges and the Board currently possess the authority to order administrative closure, should I withdraw that authority?

3. The regulations governing removal proceedings were promulgated for “the expeditious, fair, and proper resolution of matters coming before Immigration Judges.” 8 C.F.R. § 1003.12 (2017). Are there any circumstances where a docket management device other than administrative closure—including a continuance for good cause shown (8 C.F.R. § 1003.29 (2017)), dismissal without prejudice (8 C.F.R. § 1239.2(c) (2017)), or termination without prejudice (8 C.F.R. § 1239.2(f))—would be inadequate to promote that objective? Should there be different legal consequences, such as eligibility to apply for a provisional waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility under the immigration laws or for benefits under federal or state programs, where a case has been administratively closed rather than continued?

4. If I determine that Immigration Judges and the Board do not have the authority to order administrative closure, and that such a power is unwarranted or unavailable, what actions should be taken regarding cases that are already administratively closed?


Cite as 27 I&N Dec. 187 (A.G. 2018) Interim Decision #3911

The parties’ briefs shall not exceed 15,000 words and shall be filed on or before February 2, 2018. Interested amici may submit briefs not exceeding 9,000 words on or before February 9, 2018. The parties may submit reply briefs not exceeding 6,000 words on or before February 20, 2018. All filings shall be accompanied by proof of service and shall be submitted electronically to AGCertification@usdoj.gov, and in triplicate to:

United States Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General, Room 5114 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530

All briefs must be both submitted electronically and postmarked on or before the pertinent deadlines. Requests for extensions are disfavored.


If you want a copy of the BIA’s unpublished decision in Castro-Tum, go on over to LexisNexis Immigration Community at this link:




PRECEDENT: BIA Gives Guidance On Admin Closing & Avetisyan — PD Should Not Be A Factor Unless Parties Agree — Matter of W-Y-U-, 27 I&N Dec. 17 (BIA 2017)


BIA Headnotes:

“(1) The primary consideration for an Immigration Judge in evaluating whether to administratively close or recalendar proceedings is whether the party opposing administrative closure has provided a persuasive reason for the case to proceed and be resolved on the merits. Matter of Avetisyan, 25 I&N Dec. 688 (BIA 2012), clarified.

(2) In considering administrative closure, an Immigration Judge cannot review whether an alien falls within the enforcement priorities of the Department of Homeland Security, which has exclusive jurisdiction over matters of prosecutorial discretion.”

Panel: Appellate Immigration Judges Malphrus, Mullane, & Creppy

Opinion by Judge Malphrus.


While at first blush it might appear that the unrepresented respondent “won” this appeal, the victory is likely to be phyrric at best.

There was a time (now apparently gone) when the DHS gave individual Assistant Chief Counsel broader authority to offer prosecutorial discretion (“PD”) in cases that were not enforcement priorities.

In Arlington, where I was an Immigration Judge, the Assistant Chief Counsel were very reasonable and fair, and usually agreed to “short docket” hearings on well-documented asylum cases that fell squarely within the BIA precedents. Consequently, when they offered “PD” in an asylum case it usually was a “signal” that they saw the equities in the case, but also had difficulties with the asylum application that would require them to fully litigate the case and probably appeal a grant. Since the Assistant Chief Counsel in Arlington did not normally contest asylum cases unless there were significant proof or legal issues involved, their views had great credibility with both the private bar and with me.

Generally, in such situations I “suggested” that counsel accept the proffer of PD and continue to work with the Assistant Chief Counsel on overcoming her or his problem with the asylum case. If the parties eventually were able to reach agreement that the case could be heard on the  “short docket” (30 minutes or less), I would be happy to restore the case to the docket upon joint motion. Usually, counsel got my “message.”

The few cases that went forward after “PD” had been turned down by counsel usually proved to be “losers” for the respondent, either before me or before the BIA. In a couple of cases, where I could see the respondent’s case “going south in a hurry,” I simply stopped the hearing and granted the DHS motion for Administrative Closing for PD over the respondent’s objection. I don’t think anyone ever appealed. But, under Matter of W-Y-U-, I probably could not have done that.

I suspect that when this unrepresented respondent eventually gets his wish and has a merits asylum hearing, he will lose. At that point, the DHS, even prior to the Trump Administration, would be unlikely to exercise PD, even if there were outstanding equities.

Sometimes in litigation you get what you ask for, and later wish you hadn’t asked.