Bush administration

Bush Administration Imposes Political Litmus Test for Immigration Judges

On Monday, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector General released this report (pdf) on "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General." The report, though unsurprising in its conlusion that Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson and others violated federal law, did include some surprising information about the politicization of our immigration system under the Bush Administration:

"The evidence detailed above demonstrates that Kyle Sampson, Jan Williams, and Monica Goodling each violated Department of Justice policy and federal law by considering political or ideological affiliations in soliciting and evaluating candidates for [immigration judge], which are Schedule A career positions, not political appointments. Further, the evidence demonstrates that their violations were not isolated instances but were systematic in nature...Scott Jennings, who worked at the White House Office of Political Affairs, confirmed that [immigration judge] appointments were "treated like other political appointments," that the White House's sources for candidates were all Republican, and that candidates were screened for their "political qualifications."

Of course, this isn't the first time we've been told about the politicization of immigration judges. We've known for quite some time that the administration was handing out immigration judge slots "as if part of some kind of lottery."  But here's the kicker:

"One of the results of this tightly controlled selection process among Sampson, Williams, and Goodling 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 OAG repeatedly that EOIR's mission was being compromised by the shortage of [immigration judges]. We found that all of the people who applied in response to vacancy announcements for [immigraiton judges] were ignored, even when the OAG could not identify political candidates to fill the open [immigration judge] positions."

That's right folks, Sampson, Williams and Goodling left immigration judge positions vacant for extended periods of time simply because they couldn't find candidates who were Republican enough in their leanings to satisfy the litmus test.

And the analysis of how it effected the system? In an email to Kyle Sampson dated May 23, 2005 Kevin Ohlson (deputy director of EOIR) states the problem quite clearly:

"[T]he number of IJ vacancies continues to grow. The fact that so many slots have remained vacant for so long is beginning to have a measurable impact on the Immigration Courts because the pending case backlog is beginning to grow. This unwelcome development is of considerable concern to the Director because of the potential implications for the Department. We would like to be able to fill these IJ slots as quickly as possible."


The United States and Colombia - Consolidating Achievements

The op-ed in today's New York Times written by Secretary Gates and the Columbian Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, reflects the spirit of shared responsibility and mutual respect that has led to dramatic progress in improving security in Colombia.  The two leaders met today to discuss the U.S.-Colombia security relationship - just one day after NDN hosted Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco at a Latin American Policy Initiative to hear her perspective on the historic liberation of several hostages held by the FARC, Colombia's growing economy, and the proposed CTPA. 

It's important that the administration take stock of the fact that Colombia's gains are America's gains.  During her presentation, the Ambassador pointed out that over the last 10 years Colombia has been on a path to eradicate drug production, which - in combination with economic and legal reforms - has led Colombia out of a "vicious cycle" of drugs, insecurity, and poverty, into a "virtuous cycle" of security, investment, and economic growth.  The remarkable transformation in Colombia's security situation is largely the result of a partnership between the U.S. and Colombia.  The U.S. understands the benefits to be gained from having a strong, prosperous, and secure ally in Colombia, and has thus committed resources to help consolidate Colombia's hard-won freedom from violence and its economic prosperity.  One can only hope that the next administration will remain invested in the security and prosperity of the Latin American region, continuing the partnership with Colombia and extending similar commitments in the rest of the region - recognizing that any instability in the region has repercussions in the U.S., and by the same token, the gains of its neighbors are the gains of the U.S.  

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