The first 100 days of the Trump administration were always going to feature input from the organized anti-immigrant movement.The President sought advice from anti-immigrant figures on the campaign trail and has staffed his transition team and cabinet with them.
Now, former employees of anti-immigrant groups have taken positions within the Department of Homeland Security. Recent reports reveal that one long-time staffer at a prominent anti-immigrant group is being promoted to an even more public position than she previously held at the Department of Homeland Security.
Julie Kirchner is the previous executive director of the anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and is now reportedly expected to assume the role of Ombudsman at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
On January 25, Politico reported that Julie Kirchner had been appointed to a position within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), corroborating an earlier report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Kirchner was reportedly working as an advisor in the CBP commissioner’s office. Her move to USCIS comes only three months after her appointment to CBP.
Julie Kirchner left her position at FAIR in 2015 and shortly afterwards became a policy advisor for the Trump campaign. While never allergic to media, Kirchner was relatively out of the spotlight while leading FAIR. This trend of minimal media appearances continued during the presidential campaign, but Kirchner did offer statements to some outlets on behalf of Trump. In a September 2016 statement to far-right outlet Breitbart News, Kirchner called for drastic reductions in refugee admissions. Kirchner also offered statements rebuking fact checkers at The Washington Post and Politifact last year.
As a government employee, Julie Kirchner can be expected to help implement the extreme agenda the anti-immigrant movement has long advocated. The USCIS Ombudsman is tasked with “improving the quality of citizenship and immigration services delivered to the public by providing individual case assistance, as well as making recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits.” Yet dramatically reducing the level of authorized immigration has long been a primary goal of the anti-immigrant movement. Kirchner herself advocated for reducing legal immigration levels and eliminating birthright citizenship, according to federal lobbying disclosure forms. As Ombudsman, Kirchner would be positioned to work within USCIS to deny immigrants the benefits to which they are entitled.
Julie Kirchner is not the only one making the jump from employment at a Beltway anti-immigrant group to the federal government.
In January, The Washington Post reported that Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) policy analyst Jon Feere is also “in line to join the Trump administration in an immigration-related position at the Department of Homeland Security.” Subsequent reports, including from The New York Times this week, confirm that Feere is now working at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Feere worked at CIS for over a decade. His former boss, CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, also advised the Trump campaign.
Feere is a strident opponent of inclusive immigration policies. He has testified before Congress against birthright citizenship, a protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. He has also attacked undocumented young people, questioning whether they can faithfully serve in the military. In 2012, Feere gave an interview to a journalist at the anti-Semitic newspaper American Free Press.
READ MORE: Blurring Borders: Collusion between anti-immigrant groups and immigration enforcement agents
Feere and Kirchner’s positions further enmesh and bolster existing relationships between immigration enforcement agencies and the organized anti-immigrant movement. As the Center for New Community noted in a 2015 report, Blurring Borders, officials in Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have actively colluded with FAIR and CIS. This activity, with support from Breitbart News, has elevated union leaders representing Border Patrol and Immigration Enforcement agents in recent years. Emboldened by this collaboration, both the National ICE Council and National Border Patrol Council publicly endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in 2016.
You can guess which one.
These Border Patrol and ICE officials got the president they wanted. Now they have some familiar allies within the Department of Homeland Security as well.