Office of the Principal Legal Advisor
The Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) is the largest legal program in DHS, with over 1,250 attorneys and 290 support personnel. By statute, OPLA serves as the exclusive representative of DHS in immigration removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, litigating all removal cases including those against criminal aliens, terrorists, and human rights abusers.
OPLA also provides a full range of legal services to ICE programs and offices. OPLA provides legal advice and prudential counsel to ICE personnel on their customs, criminal, and immigration law enforcement authorities, the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act, ethics, liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and a range of administrative law issues, such as contract, fiscal, and employment law. OPLA represents the agency before the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Board of Contract Appeals. OPLA attorneys provide essential support to the Department of Justice in the prosecution of ICE cases and in the defense of ICE’s authorities in federal court.
In addition to its headquarters in Washington, D.C., OPLA has 25 field locations with a presence in more than 60 offices throughout the United States.
OPLA Field Legal Operations
Field Legal Operations, or FLO, is OPLA’s largest component and includes the 25 field locations across the United States. Each OPLA field location is led by a Chief Counsel, who guides DHS’s advocacy before the local immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. FLO also provides a full suite of legal services, including customs law and employment law advice, to the local ERO Field Office and HSI Office of the Special Agent in Charge.
OPLA field locations are also empowered to exercise prosecutorial discretion in removal proceedings pending before the Executive Office for Immigration Review. More information about how OPLA exercises prosecutorial discretion consistent with agency enforcement priorities is available here.
OPLA’s Headquarters Divisions are led by a Deputy Principal Legal Advisor (DPLA) for Enforcement and Litigation, a DPLA for General and Administrative Law, and a Chief of Staff.
Enforcement and Litigation (E&L): Through close client engagement and specialized legal advice and counsel, E&L advances the ICE homeland security and public safety mission by enforcing our nation’s immigration, customs, and criminal laws and policies, defending the operational authorities and decisions of ICE officers and agents in the federal courts, and guiding and supporting the advocacy of ICE attorneys before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals, with special emphasis on cases involving criminal aliens, human rights violators, and aliens who threaten our national security.
Learn more about E&L
General and Administrative Law (G&AL): Harnessing the multi-disciplinary legal talents of a team specializing in contract law, ethics, employment law, fiscal law, government information and privacy law, and other administrative law practice areas, G&AL promotes ICE’s compliance with related legal requirements and defends the agency from a variety of administrative litigation in these areas.
Learn more about G&AL
OPLA Chief of Staff (COS): Providing administrative and technical support and communication coordination for OPLA, the COS’s portfolio includes oversight of strategic priorities, tracking key performance indicators, fostering strong partnerships with operational partners, and overseeing a variety of special projects.
Learn more about the OPLA COS portfolio