Is Prosecutorial Experience Now a Disqualifier for Federal Immigration Jobs?

By Robert Law on May 13, 2021

The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) issued a press release last week announcing the hiring of 17 new immigration judges, including one assistant chief immigration judge (ACIJ) and six united chief immigration judges (UCIJs). As the press release explains:

ACIJs are responsible for overseeing the operations of their assigned immigration courts. In addition to their management responsibilities, they will hear cases. UCIJs serve as IJs in formal judicial hearings conducted via video teleconference and supervise the staff assigned to their virtual courtroom. IJs preside in formal judicial hearings and make decisions that are final unless formally appealed.

Paragraph-long biographies of each new IJ are included in the press release and all appear to have significant experience and clearly qualified for their respective positions.

So why is this newsworthy?

It shouldn’t be, but apparently the hires have angered advocates of mass immigration. As framed by an article in The Hill, “Biden fills immigration court with Trump hires”. If you interpret that headline as meaning a bunch of former Trump administration political appointees just landed career jobs at EOIR, you would understandably be mistaken. Instead, the uproar is that the 17 new hires are “former prosecutors and counselors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as a few picks with little immigration experience”. Critically, from the advocates’ perspective, “Almost none have made their career representing migrants [sic] in court.”

Not a single advocate who provided a quote to The Hill identified any specific new IJ who lacks the qualifications for the job. Instead, this is just a matter of not liking the experience. Such viewpoint discrimination is impermissible when vetting candidates for career positions and a DOJ spokesman defended hiring these 17 IJs, who had all received tentative offers under the Trump administration.

Given the way Joe Biden capitulated to the advocacy cries about the refugee ceiling, it is fair to wonder if past work at ICE or as a prosecutor is now a disqualifier for the remainder of his presidency.