FAQ’s


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What is the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ)?

The National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) was founded in 1971.  We are a voluntary organization formed with the objectives of promoting independence, and enhancing the professionalism, dignity and efficiency of the Immigration Court.

The Association provides an avenue for collective input by Immigration Judges on issues that impact the Immigration Court.  Many improvements that have occurred over the years are a result of the efforts of the Association in coordination and cooperation with the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, EOIR, and the Department of Justice.  The Association maintains a professional and cordial relationship with OCIJ and EOIR, through communication and a spirit of cooperation.  NAIJ meets regularly with the staff of the Chief Judge.

In 1979, the NAIJ was designated as the recognized representative for collective bargaining for all U.S. Immigration Judges.  In 2000, we affiliated with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) in order to be part of a large network of organized professionals who shared our values in improving our careers and the service we provide to the American public.  The NAIJ is also known as IFPTE Judicial Council 2. IFPTE is a non-profit, umbrella empoyee based organization, made up of autonomous local affiliates.  IFPTE advocates on behalf of more than 80,000 individuals, who work as Social Security Judges, GAO analysts, Library of Congress researchers, NASA scientists, nuclear engineers, architects and accountants.

Why is collective bargaining important to Immigration Judges?

We are legally classified as attorney employees of the U.S. Department of Justice, and as such, we do not have many of the powers which state and federal court judges enjoy.  For example, we do not decide how many staff members we have to assist us.  We do not decide how many guards or law clerks are employed at our courts or the technology provided to assist us in doing our daily tasks.  We cannot speak publicly or participate in seminars or conferences unless authorized to do so by EOIR.  We also have limited whistelblower protections.  These restrictions do not apply in the same way to recognized collective bargaining representatives such as the NAIJ, so by joining, Immigration Judges can maximize the effect of their input on these and many other issues.

How can membership in the NAIJ benefit my career and EOIR’s work?

Our ability to promote and educate the public and legislators regarding our important work, as well as collaborate with management regarding changes that impace our courts, is influenced by our colleagues willing to join.  The more who are willing to take on some personal responsibility over their career and work life, the more influence we have as a group in the eyes of DOJ officials and policy makers.  As such, the more Judges who are involved, the more it benefits you, as with any professional association or democratically run organization.

How do I join the NAIJ?

All Immigration Judges are eligible for membership.  Information about membership and dues can be obtained by contacting the Association’s Treasurer, Hon. Lawrence O. Burman, U.S. Immigration Judge, 1901 South Bell Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22202, 703-603-1306.

What are the dues?

Dues can be paid by convenient payroll deduction of $20 per pay period or by check annually if preferred.  In addition, contributions from members or non-members in support of the Association are welcome.

What do my NAIJ dues pay for?

As individual employees of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Immigration Judges are prohibited from speaking publicly, or lobbying Congress or the Department.  Only as an Association, legally constituted as a labor organization, have we been able to speak independently of DOJ and advocate for Judges’ interests.  While NAIJ dues do not pay for individual legal representation of judges, we do have a retainer agreement with a labor law firm that gives us advice.  In addition, all Judges have the right to union representation at formal discussions with an Agency representative concerning a grievance, personnel policy, or employment practices or conditions, and at any examination by the Agency representative in connection with an investigation that may result in disciplinary action.

The Association has lobbied Congress on issues impacting Immigration Judges.  Congressional lobbying  efforts spearheaded by the NAIJ were instrumental in obtaining a significant pay raise for Immigration Judges in 1996, statutory contempt power, and in working towards and maintaining judicial independence.  The NAIJ’s efforts in these areas obviously are ongoing.  For example, the Department of Justice has not yet issued regulations in support of contempt power and as an independent body, the NAIJ has been pressing for action on this important tool. We are actively working on several fronts.  Our current priorities include pursuing enhancement of resources for our severely under-resourced courts and increasing judicial independence through structural reform.

We represent all Immigration Judges in collective bargaining, take actions to enforce the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, represent Judges in disciplinary actions and in individual grievances, pursue remedies for denial of grievances through arbitration, and participate in on-going liaison activities with Agency management to provide input before decisions are reached and to ameliorate any lack of communication between headquarters and field offices.  We advocate improvements which would improve the quality of our members’ work environment and work life, to enhance judicial security and to reduce work related burnout and stress.

To accomplish our goals, we have testified at congressional oversight hearings, lobbied Congress, presented nationally covered press conferences and individually educated members of the media.  We have participated in numerous symposiums and working groups to improve our court system with prestigious non-profit organizations, law schools and attorney groups.

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What is the IFPTE?

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), AFL-CIO & CLC, is a non-profit, umbrella employee based organization, made up of autonomous local affiliates. IFPTE advocates on behalf of more than 80,000 women and men in professional and technicaloccupations.  Their members are employed in the private, public and federal sectors. Unique in representing highly educated and skilled women and men, IFPTE combines the strength of collective bargaining with the autonomy and specialization of a professional association. To learn more, visit www.ifpte.org.

What are the benefits of the NAIJ affiliation with IFPTE?

The NAIJ affiliated with the IFPTE in 2000.  It’s been a good fit, since the IFPTE represents Social Security Judges, DC Administrative Law Judges, lawyers at the Legal Services Corporation, and professionals at the U.S. Congressional Research Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Government Accountability Office, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  IFPTE has given us invaluable support in training, legal assistance, and advocacy.  IFPTE affiliation also affords our members access to various UNION PLUS benefits, such as discounts, insurance programs, mortgage benefits, and scholarships.

How is the NAIJ organized?

The NAIJ’s current constitution was updated and ratified by the members in 2012 and specifically governs NAIJ activities.  A copy of the NAIJ Constitution is posted in the Members Only section of this website.  The President, Executive Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two Regional Vice Presidents are elected by the membership every two years.  They serve as the NAIJ Executive Board and ratify the President’s appointment of a Grievance Chair and Director of Communications.   Local Representatives may be active or retired NAIJ members, who are appointed by the President, subject to approval by the Executive Board.

What can I expect from my NAIJ local representative?

The NAIJ local representative is invited to attend monthly telephonic meetings with NAIJ officers. These meetings allow the NAIJ officers to share information about their activities and information received from OCIJ and EOIR during the month, which the local representatives then pass on to the Judges.  These meetings also allow the local representatives to share local problems and discuss possible solutions or recommend action for the officers to pursue.  Your local representative is your first point of contact for questions or problems you are experiencing, however all NAIJ officers are willing to discuss any issue at any time.  Local representatives are available to be present with you when you have a right to union representation at formal discussions with the Agency about working conditions, or Agency investigatory meetings, as described above.  Do not hesitate to raise your concerns about workplace issues with an NAIJ local representative whether or not you are a member, as NAIJ represents all Immigration Judges nationwide.

How can I take a more active role in the NAIJ?

Feel free to contact any NAIJ officer if you would like to become more involved. We welcome the help and will put your skills to good use.

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