The morning briefings come nearly every workday, seemingly chock-full of all the news fit to be seen by employees at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which handles the country’s immigration cases. Regularly topping two dozen pages, the memos include summaries of articles from outlets national and local, covering topics like “Legal News,” “Enforcement News” and “Police and Legislative News.”
But on Monday, tucked between stories from The Washington Post and a public radio station, the briefing included a summary of and a link to a blog post from what the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a “Hate Group”: Vdare.com, a frequent platform for white nationalists espousing anti-Semitic and anti-immigration rhetoric.
The Vdare post singles out immigration judges by name, uses their photos and refers to them with an anti-Semitic slur. The Justice Department sends the briefings to all EOIR employees, including its 400-some immigration judges, which means the judges named and pictured in the derogatory post also received the link to it this week — from their employer.
The briefing was circulated the same week as President Trump faced accusations of anti-Semitism for asserting that Jewish people who vote for Democrats show “great disloyalty” and for praising Henry Ford, a virulent anti-Semite. It also comes as the Justice Department moves to possibly decertify the union that represents federal immigration judges, which could silence a group critical of some of the administration’s immigration policies.
The union, the National Association of Immigration Judges, lambasted the briefing in a letter to EOIR Director James McHenry. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, the group’s president and one of the judges highlighted in the post, wrote that the union had received numerous complaints from judges across the country.
“The post features links and content that directly attacks sitting Immigration Judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs and the label ‘Kritarch,’ ” Tabaddor said in the letter, which The Post obtained.
When used with a negative tone, the reference to kritarchy, a biblical term for a system of rule by judges in ancient Israel, is “deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” she wrote. “VDare’s use of the term in a pejorative manner casts Jewish history in a negative light as an Anti-Semitic trope of Jews seeking power and control.”
An EOIR spokeswoman said the blog post, which BuzzFeed News first reported on, “should not have been included.”
“The Department of Justice condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” the office’s assistant press secretary Kathryn Mattingly told The Post.
She said the briefings are compiled by a contractor, but she did not respond to a question about whether the person responsible would be reprimanded.
Tabaddor asked EOIR to “issue an apology to all EOIR employees, particularly the impacted Immigration Judges.” As of Thursday evening, Tabaddor had not received a formal apology, she told The Post.
The union also called for “immediate steps to ensure that such posts or content is not enshrined as a legitimate news source in future EOIR publications.”
Monday was far from the first time the office’s daily briefing has included questionable content, said immigration attorney Matthew Hoppock, who writes about the EOIR and has researched the office’s morning newsletter.
In April, Hoppock published every EOIR briefing since September 2018, which he received after submitting Freedom of Information Act requests. He said he was appalled at how many stories from right-wing websites the Daily Caller and Breitbart News were included.
“The substance is really gross,” Hoppock said in an interview. “Sometimes they link to The Washington Post or BuzzFeed, but a lot of times it’s just nonsense. It feels like propaganda. It feels like they’re being given an agenda, when they’re supposed to be neutral.”
Another item that stood out to him was a link to a Fox News interview with Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who led Trump’s short-lived election integrity commission. The piece was titled, “Migrants have no basis to claim asylum.”
“Why would you send that to immigration judges whose job it is to adjudicate asylum claims?” Hoppock said.
Hoppock criticized the department for spending money on the briefings, which are compiled by the contractor TechMIS. Steven Mains, the firm’s chief executive, said the newsletters are compiled based on a set of government-approved keywords and is then sent to the Justice Department for approval before it’s distributed.
“We make no editorial judgments based on viewpoints, but present the customer with all the news that fits their criteria,” Mains said.
He said the Justice Department has asked the company to omit Vdare content from all future briefings. Hoppock said any claims that the inclusion of far-right material was an innocent mistake are dubious.
“It’s not like they weren’t aware,” Hoppock said, citing a July report, published by the Young Turks, about the office’s distribution of Breitbart articles. “If it is a random Google scrape and they’re picking up white supremacist stuff, they should’ve stopped by now.”
In her letter, Tabaddor said that the union supports the First Amendment and the right to free expression but that “the Department of Justice’s use of its authority to legitimize and provide an imprimatur of respectability to this website under the guise of ‘news’ runs counter to American ideals of equality under the law.”