Time passes. On Jan 18, the rules changes governing non-lawyer practice in the immigration system — which in this way, although surely not others, could be a model for other forums, take effect. As explained in the Notice in the Federal Register:
The rule transfers the administration of the Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) program within EOIR from the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) to the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) (8 CFR 1003.0); amends the qualifications for recognition of organizations and accreditation of their representatives (8 CFR 1292.11 and 1292.12); institutes administrative procedures to enhance the management of the R&A roster (8 CFR 1292.13 through 1292.19); and updates the disciplinary process to make recognized organizations, in addition to accredited representatives, attorneys, and other practitioners, subject to sanctions for conduct that contravenes the public interest (8 CFR 1003.101 et seq.).
The broad authorization to approved organizations for non-lawyers to assist in the decision and hearing process has been of very significant assistance in making sure that at least some people get the help they need.
As the advocacy organization CLINIC notes:
The R&A program governs how nonprofit organizations provide charitable immigration legal services. Nonprofits that meet certain requirements apply for recognition and non-attorney staff members may apply for accreditation after completing rigorous training focused on immigration law. Accredited individuals can help clients with immigration matters before government agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the asylum office. Certain accredited representatives may represent clients in immigration court. Currently, nearly 1,000 nonprofits are recognized and 1,900 non-attorney staff members are accredited. (Bold added)
As CLINIC also explained in an e-mail.
The [nonprofit] organization [seeking approval] itself must meet certain requirements to become recognized, and non-attorney staff members go through extensive legal training to become accredited. For decades, this program has allowed nonprofits to provide quality affordable immigration legal services to immigrants who otherwise might not have access to legal assistance because many cannot afford the services of a private attorney.
For more information, see the CLINIC Toolkit (being updated).
Note: The earlier version of this blog was headlined, “Final Rule Expanding Non-Lawyer Practice in Immigration System.” While I believe and hope that the new Rule will have that effect. It may be that use of the word “expanding” was overly optimistic, at least without additional more detailed analysis, and I have replaced it with “facilitating”. Apologies for any confusion.