Crime/Corruption

IG report: Bush's GOP hires among immigration judges

by Amaury Nora

Today, the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility just released a report on the improper hiring practices by Monica Goodling, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) White House Liaison and Senior Counsel to the Attorney General. According to the report, Goodling broke federal law by discriminating against job applicants on account of their political views.

Our investigation found that Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions, in violation of federal law and Department policy. With regard to requests from interim U.S. Attorneys to hire [assisant U.S. attorneys], we determined that in two instances Goodling considered the candidate’s political or ideological affiliations when she assessed the request. For example, in one instance when the interim U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia sought approval from Goodling to hire an AUSA for a vacant position, Goodling responded that the candidate gave her pause because judging from his résumé he appeared to be a “liberal Democrat.”

In addition, we determined that Goodling often used political or ideological affiliations to select or reject career attorney candidates for temporary details to Department offices, including positions in EOUSA that had not been filled by political appointees. Goodling’s use of political considerations in connection with these details was particularly damaging to the Department because it resulted in high-quality candidates for important details being rejected in favor of less-qualified candidates. For example, an experienced career terrorism prosecutor was rejected by Goodling for a detail to EOUSA to work on counterterrorism issues because of his wife’s political affiliations. Instead, EOUSA had to select a much more junior attorney who lacked any experience in counterterrorism issues and who EOUSA officials believed was not qualified for the position.

Goodling also admitted that she took into consideration the candidates’ political leaning for positions as Department immigration judges (IJs) and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) members. Justice investigators also found Kyle Sampson and Jan Williams also improperly took political and ideological affiliations into account in “selecting immigration judges.”

According to the report, Sampson had changed the selection process of hiring immigration judges. In an internal Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) e-mail from an Assistant CIJs (ACIJs) to the Chief Immigration Judge (CIJ), stating that Laura Baxter, a Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, had recently informed EOIR that “the Dept. is going to take a greater role in [immigration judges] hiring.” The e-mail noted further that Baxter “emphasized that she wanted us to know that this is coming from the AG [John Ashcroft].” The email contained an attached file entitled “Appointment of Immigration Judges.”

“Many lawyers seeking positions within the Administration, including judgeships, become known to the White House offices of Political Affairs, Presidential Personnel, and Counsel to the President.” The document stated that some lawyers might qualify to be IJs, and that “coordination” was needed to ensure that such lawyers were “informed of the opportunity” to become IJs. The document included a “Proposed Process,” which was substantively identical to the process that became established under Sampson, Williams, and Goodling, and which is quoted below:
A. EOIR informs DAG (Baxter) of current or upcoming IJ vacancy.
B. DAG (Baxter) informs OAG (Sampson) of the vacancy.
C. OAG (Sampson) informs WH OPA . . ., WH PPO . . ., and WHCO . . . of the vacancy and solicits names of possible applicants.
D. OAG (Sampson) transmits application package to possible applicants; DAG (Baxter) transmits a list of possible applicants recommended by WH to EOIR.
E. EOIR recommends candidates for AG appointment.
F. AG appoints.

According to the report, the proposed process for hiring immigration judges was implemented in 2004.

Part of the selection process, applicants were required to “identify their political party affiliation, their voting address for 2000 and 2004, involvement in the Bush/Cheney campaigns of 2000 and 2004, and a point of contact to verify their involvement in the campaigns.”

Sampson had used Jan Williams, a non-attorney Federalist Society from 1997 to 2001, to get “ideas for immigration judge postings” when she was working at the White House. When she later was moved to the Justice Department, Sampson would ask her to “contact the White House to get any candidate ideas that they had for immigration judges,” Justice investigators found.

While Williams was serving as the Department’s White House Liaison, she used the Internet and LexisNexis, a data mining company, to search information about the applicant’s political leaning. According to the report, Justice investigators found an email Williams sent to Goodling that “contained a search string, and stated: ‘This is the lexis nexis search string that I use for AG appointments.'” The search sting that was forwarded to Goodling was:

[first name of a candidate] and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

Emptywheel of Firedoglake just posted that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sánchez are now considering a “criminal referral for perjury.”

This is a travesty to our democratic system. The political screening went so far to deny even qualified moderate Republican applicants because they were “not Republican enough” for the Bushites. I hope this is further proof why we in the Latino/a community must stay vigilant when it comes to taking pride whenever we see a fellow Latino/a being appointed into office. The report clearly shows that Alberto Gonzales had lied to the Congress about these matters, and it should make one wonder what other anti-immigration skeletons are hiding in his closet.

The time for revamping our broken immigration system is now. We must stop the charades and hold our politicians accountable, even if they are Democrats.

cross-posted on Para Justicia y Libertad and The Sanctuary