The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on 2 May 2017 that the former executive director for the Foundation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) was appointed to serve as the ombudsman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) department.
The announcement of Julie Kirchner’s appointment to the post came a day after the DHS website initially listed her in the position before changing it to “vacant”:
The ombudsman’s office at USCIS provides assistance to immigrants who run into trouble with the agency, such as immigration applications that take too long to process or applications that may have been improperly rejected. The ombudsman also prepares an annual report for Congress in which they can issue audits and policy recommendations without consulting with USCIS in advance.
Kirchner had reportedly been working for the Customs and Border Protection agency as an “an advisor to the commissioner’s office” since February 2017. Both CBP and CIS refused to comment on Kirchner’s appointment as recently as 28 April 2017.
Kirchner’s LinkedIn profile, however, does not list either of her federal positions; instead it continues to list her work at FAIR. The group has been controversial throughout its history, first advocating for population control before becoming a hard-line immigration group. It has received more than $1 million in funding from a pro-eugenics organization, the Pioneer Fund, throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
The Department of Homeland Security website explains the ombudsman’s position:
The Ombudsman provides an impartial and independent perspective to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in an attempt to resolve problems with pending cases. The Ombudsman does not have the authority to make or change USCIS decisions.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified FAIR as a hate group, and described it as the “action arm” of a nativist movement promulgated by its founder, John Tanton.
Tanton has formed other groups, including NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, both of whom President Donald Trump said in October 2016 were consulted by his campaign. Neither NumbersUSA nor CIS list Tanton on their respective websites.
NumbersUSA president Roy Beck has described Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “very supportive of our efforts.”
Heidi Beirich, the director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project periodical, called it “extremely troubling” that Kirchner could be named to the ombudsman position:
Her appointment is the latest example of nativists joining the Trump administration at either the White House or DHS and shows the direct line to federal power that extremist groups now have.