ILJ3210EN - Legal Issues in Immigration Services

Course description

Foundation in immigration procedure and law, including an overview of the immigration process, family visas, specialized visas, asylum, waivers, deportability, inadmissibility, naturalization, research, writing, citizenship, and ethics. Designed to meet the training requirements for individuals seeking accreditation by the US Board of Immigration Appeals to serve in BIA-recognized legal service centers.

How this course benefits students

According to The Immigration Alliance, there are more than 22 million foreign-born, non-citizens in the United States – and … only 12,000 private immigration attorneys and 2,800 non-profit immigration attorneys and accredited staff in the United States to help meet the demand…. Because the poor are especially under-represented by legal counsel, the Board of Immigration Appeals permits trained and specially-approved representatives to practice law in BIA-accredited non-profit centers that represent low-income clients. This course is designed to teach a broad overview of the fundamentals of immigration law to meet the BIA's training requirements for partial accreditation. Several well-established organizations provide a course in basic immigration law (known as 40-hour basic immigration), either during one-week courses or online. Even if every participant in the courses went on to practice immigration law, the need would not be met. Unfortunately, many participants do not follow up with their training for various reasons: difficulty of getting the hands-on experience, inability to find (or start) a legal services center in which to work, concern about legal liability, etc. Attorneys who are licensed to practice in any state may practice immigration law, which is a federal issue. Many attorneys have no training in immigration law, though, so they attend the 40-hour basic courses to prepare to practice in the immigration field. Individuals applying for BIA accreditation must show that they have had at least a foundational course that gives a broad overview of immigration law and that they have had sufficient experience under the supervision of an immigration professional. The Missional University course provides the entry-level training in immigration law. The Study Beyond course in immigration law, together with some additional experience, provides the experiential component for BIA recognition. Students who complete this course, the Study Beyond course, and any hours of experience required by the accredited center at which they serve, would have the minimal qualifications to apply for Partial Recognition by the BIA to practice immigration law. Additional training and experience would be recommended for most students.

Why this course is important

Non-lawyers who are recognized by the US Board of Immigration Appeals can practice immigration law on behalf of low-income clients. This foundational course and the Study Beyond course in immigration law give students the overview and initial experience needed for application to the BIA to practice at a BIA-accredited center. It should be noted that organizations that have been offering 40-hour immigration courses for many years still rely on the course materials and testing of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), which is accepted by the BIA without question. This course proposal assumes that the faculty of Missional University (together with any visiting speakers) will be adequate to teach the material and adequately assess the competency of the students' learning to the satisfaction of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Since the BIA does not accredit educational institutions, though, The Missional College will investigate the possibility of working through the ILRC until MU's teaching reputation is established.

Credit hours
3 hours
Subject area
International Law & Justice
Educational level
Learning type
Upcoming terms
* Schedule subject to change. Please contact the Registrar's office with schedule questions.

How this course relates to missional core values

Biblically based

Many 40-hour basic courses are offered by religious organizations, but Biblical concepts are not really included in the course. Instead, students are made aware of books about how Christians should meet the needs of refugees and how God's Word teaches us to protect foreigners. In this course, the Bible will be integrated into the examination of immigration law and the legal process. Students will be challenged to identify and contrast competing Biblical concepts that are at the heart of America's complex (and sometimes contradictory) laws.

Missionally driven

Immigration is a volatile topic in the US, with people taking theoretical positions from isolationism to open borders. Practitioners in immigration law, however, must deal with real-life issues such as broken families, people fleeing from chaos and violence, dangerous criminals taking advantage of American generosity, and individuals intentionally breaking laws (local and federal). Students will learn to discern where God is at work in the lives of those He is bringing to the US, where Christians have more freedom to share the Gospel. They will also be challenged to see His work where clients are deported, where criminals are denied admission, and where families suffer for many different reasons.

Contextually informed

Students will examine immigration law for use in BIA-accredited centers, in private law firms, or in non-profit legal centers serving low-income clients. The course will address principles of communication with foreign nationals, a brief introduction to their communities of origin, and ministry to low-income families.

Interculturally focused

Practitioners in immigration law encounter diverse cultures as part of their roles, so any introductory course on immigration law must include training on working with cultural differences in expectations, communication, and practices. The Missional University course, however, will present these encounters as part of God's work in bringing all nations, tribes, and tongues to Himself. Basic missiological concepts will be incorporated into the course so that students will be prepared to assist clients from different cultures and to share the Gospel when given the opportunity.

Practically minded

This course is, above all, a course in the practical legal skills of interviewing potential clients, applying the correct immigration laws, submitting the appropriate legal forms, following up with clients and federal agencies, and complying with ethical standards. At the end of this course, students should have enough training to begin practicing in a Study Beyond internship or shadowing course. Students should begin to develop concepts of how they can use the legal skills to serve in ministry situations and roles.

Experientially transformed

Students will gain experience in the practice of immigration law (researching the law, obtaining client information, completing forms, using online tools and websites, etc.). Students will also work in teams to establish case goals, communicate with practicing attorneys, and investigate successful legal service ministries. Following the 3000-level course, students will be prepared for the Study Beyond course. With the 3000-level course and the Study Beyond experience, students will have the knowledge and experience for an entry-level legal advocate position in a BIA-accredited center, subject to BIA approval.