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The Immigration Court Hiring Scandal

In the early 2000's the case-loads of the country immigration courts were rising while the number of immigration judges was simultaneously declining. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a branch of the US Department of Justice which oversees the immigration courts of the US and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), asked Congress for additional funding to hire more immigration judges. However, the reputation of the EOIR was tarnished by the discovery of an illegal political hiring scandal that took place from the spring of 2004 until December 2006. The Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General released a report on July 28, 2008 confirming that the Bush Administration Justice Department used an illegal selection process to exclusively appoint immigration judges who had been screened for their political or ideological affiliations during that time.

The report maintained, in relevant part that, "One of the results of this tightly controlled selection process [by DOJ political appointees] was that it left numerous immigration judge vacancies unfilled for long periods of time when they could not find enough candidates, even when EOIR pleaded for more judges and told the Office of the Attorney General repeatedly that the EOIR's mission was being compromised by the shortage of immigration judges. "

The report also revealed that the appointees frequently had little or no immigration law experience. Finally, an analysis of the asylum decisions by the 16 judges who were appointed after consideration of their political credentials and who had decided at least 100 matters found that, on average, they were more likely to rule against asylum seekers than their colleagues on the same court who had been appointed according to the Justice Department's politically neutral rule.

The report covering the selection of immigration judges primarily blamed Kyle Sampson, a former top aide to the Attorney General, and two former White House liaisons to the Justice Department, Monica M. Gooding and Jan Williams, for taking political affiliation into account when hiring immigration judges. When vetting applicants, Ms. Gooding asked them questions about their political beliefs and researched their campaign contributions. She also conducted Internet searches of their names and words like "asylum," "immigrant" and "border," as well as partisan terms like abortion, Iraq, gay, and names of political figures to determine their views.

Ms. Ms. Gooding solicited and received resumes for immigration judges and BIA candidates from the White House, from Republican members of Congress, the Republican National Lawyers Association, the Federalist society, and from others with Republican Party affiliations. There was no evidence that she solicited candidates from any sources she thought had Democratic affiliations. Evidence demonstrated that Ms. Gooding violated Department policy and federal law, and committed misconduct, by considering political or ideological affiliations in the appointment of immigration judges and BIA members. Gooding admitted in her congressional testimony that she "took political consideration into account in immigration judge hiring." She also stated that Sampson told her that immigration judge hiring was not subject to civil service laws and that she "assumed" those laws did not apply to BIA member hiring. The Department of Justice report suggests that the patronage-style selection for immigration judges was illegal.

The immigration judge hiring scandal was unfortunate. It is my sincere hope that politically neutral guidelines and a new crop of immigration judges have helped restore the integrity of the immigration court judiciary. The scandal of hiring immigration judges for their political position or political belief does disservice to the idea of ​​a court that is to be fair and impartial when making decisions concerning applicants who are fleeing persecution. Such judges should be above reproach.

Source by Leonard Birdsong

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