Federal investigators found rampant nepotism in recent years within the agency that oversees U.S. immigration courts, including three top officials who used their positions to help relatives land paid internships.

In a report this week, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said about 16 percent of the interns hired between 2007 and 2012 for the Executive Office of Immigration Review’s Student Temporary Employment Program were family members of employees.

The high-level officials involved in the behavior included Immigration Review Director Juan Osuna, Chief Immigration Judge Brian O’Leary and Board of Immigration Appeals Chairman David Neal, all of whom violated federal nepotism laws by helping relatives obtain positions with the internship program, according to investigators.


Federal investigators found that nepotism was rampant with an internship program for the agency that oversees the U.S. immigration court system. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The findings follow a 2012 report from the inspector general that found improper hiring practices within the Justice Department’s Justice Management Division.

Osuna essentially reported himself for violations after the 2012 report, ordering an internal review of hiring practices within his office. The agency has implemented new anti-nepotism policies since then, according to the inspector general.

According to the report this week, Osuna “conveyed his niece’s interest” in a paid internship and passed along her resume in 2008, when he was acting chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals. He then helped her return to the agency in 2009.

Investigators determined that O’Leary “intervened in the hiring process in an effort to ensure his daughter would be selected for an internship” in 2009.

The report said Neal helped his son land a position with the program in 2010, when he was acting director of the Board of Immigration Appeals. It also said he “used poor judgement” in passing along his daughter’s resume in 2007, although the review did not find conclusive evidence that he advocated for her to be hired.

Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce said the department is reviewing the inspector general’s findings and plans to take “appropriate personnel action as necessary.” She added that the agency now requires all hiring officials to certify that no nepotism has occurred with the selection of employees and interns.