WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department’s immigration arm sent judges a morning news briefing that included a blog post from a virulently anti-immigration website that also publishes work by white nationalists.
The post by VDARE featured links that directly attacked immigration judges with racially tinged slurs and a specific anti-Semitic reference about Jews and power, according to a letter sent Thursday by judges’ union president Ashley Tabbador to James McHenry, the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Justice Department.
It was distributed to all 440 immigration judges across the country earlier this week, along with other stories from The Washington Post and Connecticut Public Radio. The inclusion of the post was first reported by BuzzFeed.
Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly said the daily morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included.
“The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” she said.
VDARE is an anti-immigration website founded and edited by Peter Brimelow. He also operates a Connecticut-based nonprofit, VDARE Foundation, that raised nearly $4.8 million between 2007 and 2015, according to IRS filings.
Brimelow has denied his website is white nationalist but has acknowledged it publishes works by writers who fit that description “in the sense that they aim to defend the interests of American whites.” Brimelow also has spoken at conferences hosted by white nationalist groups, including Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute and Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance online magazine.
Tabbador wrote that National Association of Immigration Judges fully supports the right to free speech. “However, the publication and dissemination of a white supremacist, Anti-Semitic website … is antithetical to the goals and ideals of the Department of Justice.”
She asked that the post be withdrawn and an apology issued.
Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, released a statement saying, “It is shocking and outrageous that a vile, racist attack against distinguished jurists was linked and distributed from an official U.S. government publication.” The federation is the parent union of the judges’ union led by Tabbador.
The issue arose as the Justice Department, which is in charge of immigration judges, is challenging their right to be represented by a labor union. It is a move the judges said was aimed at silencing criticism.
A petition recently filed with the Federal Labor Relations Authority contended the union shouldn’t be allowed because the judges are management officials who help decide or shape the agency’s policies, a Justice spokesman said.
In recent months, the immigration judges’ union has spoken out against new performance quotas and rules for managing court dockets. The National Association of Immigration Judges has also called for the immigration courts to become independent of the Justice Department, where the judges are currently employees.
The Justice Department held a summit last month focused on how to combat anti-Semitism. In his keynote remarks, Attorney General William Barr said combating anti-Semitism was “an important priority” for the Justice Department and condemned what he called an “intolerable” rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writer Michael Kunzelman contributed to this report from College Park, Maryland.