OPLA is the largest legal program within DHS and is comprised of more than 1,300 attorneys and almost 300 support personnel across the country with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Pursuant to 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 noncitizens, terrorists, and human rights abusers. OPLA also provides a full range of legal services to all ICE programs and offices, including 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, legal 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 and discretion in federal court.
OPLA attorneys in field locations are generally referred to as Assistant Chief Counsels, and the duties of this position consist primarily of representing the U.S. Government in removal proceedings before immigration judges. These proceedings frequently involve applicants for asylum or other forms of relief under United States immigration laws. Additional duties include providing legal advice and support to the other ICE components on employment, criminal, customs, and information disclosure related issues, as well as litigation support to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation and to U.S. Attorney’s Offices in immigration and customs matters. The position also involves appellate advocacy before the Board of Immigration Appeals, including the preparation of briefs and other pleadings. Assistant Chief Counsel report to Chief Counsel through Deputy Chief Counsel.
OPLA attorneys at Headquarters are referred to as Associate Legal Advisors, and the primary duty of this position is to provide legal support, subject matter expertise, and prudential counsel to ICE component leadership and OPLA field locations on all pertinent areas of law from immigration, customs, and criminal law; to contracts and procurement, labor and employment, ethics, and fiscal law. Associate Legal Advisors report to Division Chiefs through Deputy Chiefs, and are organized within the Enforcement and Litigation or General and Administrative Law directorates, or the Chief of Staff portfolio.
OPLA fosters an environment in which all voices are valued and welcomes the unique perspectives and opinions that inhere among a talented, diverse, and inclusive workforce. Comprising a far more diverse workforce than its private sector counterparts, OPLA is proud to strive to further diversify the experiences, perspectives, and characteristics of its workforce and is committed to celebrating our differences and embracing practices that foster a fair, safe, and inclusive workplace by promoting equitable access to opportunities.
Prospective and recent law school graduates as well as those completing judicial clerkships may apply for employment with OPLA through the DHS Honors Attorney program here. The open application period is August 1 – September 6, 2022, for placement in 2023. Positions are available throughout the United States, including the National Capital Region. Please indicate your preferred location with OPLA on the mandatory checklist.
Applicants for all OPLA attorney vacancies other than through the DHS Honors Attorney program may find vacancies and apply through USAJOBS. These positions are located throughout the United States, including the National Capital Region. Please see the OPLA recruiting brochure for more information.
OPLA employs many support staff as legal assistants, mail and file clerks, mission support specialists, management and program analysts, among other positions, both at OPLA Headquarters and Field Locations.
Interested applicants for non-attorney OPLA positions may apply through USAjobs.gov.
OPLA’s broad and diverse legal practice includes immigration, customs, criminal, employment, fiscal, privacy, cybersecurity, human rights, and national security law. Legal Internships with ICE OPLA provide law students the opportunity to work on cases and matters that meaningfully contribute to ICE’s mission to protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threatens national security and public safety. OPLA offers a wide spectrum of legal experience coupled with significant responsibility and mentorship. Many legal interns become attorneys and leaders within our agency and pursue long-term federal government careers, including through the DHS Honors Attorney Program and OPLA’s Student to Attorney Recruitment (STAR) Program, which identifies for permanent hire those law students who performed at an exemplary level while interning for an OPLA field office or Headquarters division and who have demonstrated a genuine interest in OPLA’s areas of practice. The potential career opportunities within OPLA are plentiful and the professional development is unmatched.
Law students interested in internships and externships at OPLA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., should send a cover letter indicating division(s) of interest, resume, and unofficial transcript to ICEOPLAHQInternships@ice.dhs.gov. OPLA Headquarters divisions are listed above.
Law students interested in internships and externships at OPLA field locations should contact the office for which they are interested for information about local opportunities. OPLA field locations are located throughout the country and a list of field locations and contact information is available on the OPLA Contact page.