The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is demanding the ouster of an immigration hard-liner from a federal office that helps immigrants and businesses solve problems with applications for visas, green cards and U.S. citizenship.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, the caucus said the appointment of Julie Kirchner as ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is “offensive, insensitive and malicious.”
Kirchner previously led the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a conservative advocacy group that favors deportations, the construction of a border wall with Mexico, and a sharp reduction in legal immigration from 1 million people a year to 300,000.
“We do not believe that a person who has spent over a decade attacking immigrant communities will now work effectively and thoughtfully to advance the rights of immigrants and fulfill the important duties that are required of this role,” said the letter sent Wednesday and signed by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico), who chairs the caucus, and 18 other Democrats.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security called the criticism of Kirchner “unfounded.”
“Julie Kirchner is an experienced and accomplished attorney with expertise in immigration issues,” spokesman David Lapan said. “She is unquestionably an expert in immigration policy and law, and as such, is well qualified to fulfill the duties of the office.”
Kirchner moved to the ombudsman’s office in May after working on border security issues as an advisor to the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. The ombudsman is an “impartial and confidential resource” for the public, according to the Homeland Security website.
Thousands of people turn to the office for help every year, Kirchner’s online biography says.
Kirchner was raised in Iowa and her father is from Hungary, the biography states. She spent a year in her father’s homeland taking intensive language classes and studying the violin, and earned a bachelor’s in political science from Yale University and a law degree from the University of Iowa.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ letter seeking her removal comes as tensions are rising between immigration hard-liners in the Trump administration and Congressional Democrats.