The former executive director of a staunch anti-immigration group is set to become U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s top public liaison, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said Tuesday.
Julie Kirchner, who served as director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform from 2005 to 2015, will become the agency’s new ombudsman, a position tasked with providing case assistance to immigrants and recommending policies to improve the agency’s handling of immigration benefits. The position does not require Senate confirmation.
After leaving the group known as FAIR, Kirchner served as an adviser to Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DHS said.
But it is Kirchner’s relationship with FAIR that will likely raise objections from Democrats and immigration advocates. FAIR, which supports strict restrictions on who may be admitted to the United States, is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization.
“To have an ombudsman with those connections sort of undermines the point of having an ombudsman,” said Heidi Beirich, an official with the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an interview with ProPublica, which first reported Kirchner’s appointment Friday.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, has in the past objected to Kirchner’s association with the Trump administration, arguing that “instead of offering workable solutions” to immigration issues, appointees like Kirchner “only offer blunt force.”
But FAIR has scoffed at resistance to Kirchner’s involvement in the administration, noting in an April newsletter that “illegal alien advocates are shocked that the president is appointing people who agree with him.”
Prior to joining FAIR, Kirchner worked as a staffer in the Minnesota House of Representatives, as a lawyer in private practice and as a criminal prosecutor, DHS said. She holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law, DHS said.