The Justice Department should improve the transparency of the process for hiring immigration judges, said an IG report which however said its review did not support allegations of political favoritism in the process.
The review was a response to a letter from several members of Congress asking the IG to investigate allegations that some offers for immigration judge and Board of Immigration Appeals positions were withdrawn or delayed for political or ideological reasons. The IG later received separate allegations that other candidates may have been favored because of their connections to the Trump administration, or perceived political affiliation or ideology, said the report.
It said that after interviewing witnesses and reviewing some 70,000 documents of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and other Justice components, “We did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the Department engaged in systemic favoring or disfavoring of IJ and Board Member candidates based on political affiliation in the hiring process to warrant opening a full investigation.”
However, it said that a series of hiring policy changes over 2017-2019 “decreased transparency” on how applicants were selected for a first-round interview by dropping previous definitions of what qualifies as a “first-tier” candidate who under departmental policy must get an interview. Those policies also are unclear regarding what qualifies a candidate for a second-round interview and do not require maintaining they types of records needed to assess how candidates were recommended for hiring after that interview, it said.
The IG said that given the political attention to the immigration process and the allegations of favoritism, “we believe that attention to these concerns . . . is critical to improve the public’s and EOIR litigants’ confidence in the integrity and neutrality of EOIR IJs and Board Members, and therefore, EOIR proceedings.”
Because the report was in the nature of a management alert, there was no response from the department.