The Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls Julie Kirchner’s appointment as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ombudsman an “offensive, insensitive and malicious” act. Kirchner’s ombudsman role–a federal office purposed to help immigrants and businesses solve problems with visa, green card, and U.S. citizenship applications– comes after her leadership role with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group favoring deportations, the construction of a wall on the southern border and a steep reduction in legal immigration from 1 million people annually down to 300,000.
“Every year, the Ombudsman’s office receives thousands of requests for help and assigns each case to a dedicated immigration law analyst who works with USCIS to help the requestors resolve problems with their cases, as appropriate,” according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) release. “As the cases are investigated, the Ombudsman’s office also looks for trends and underlying problems in the administration of our immigration laws and offers recommendations and solutions in its annual report to Congress.”
Kirchner, described as an “immigration hard-liner” in The Washington Post, immediately elicited demands for her ouster from the group of Hispanic elected officials. Immediately preceding her role at USCIS, Kirchner worked for several months as an adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP.) At CBP, Kirchner worked on issues like tactical infrastructure at the Southern Border, border security metrics development and outreach efforts to stakeholders.
“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,” a Hispanic Caucus letter to DHS Secretary. Signers of the letter include Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-New Mexico), who chairs the Hispanic Caucus as well as 18 other Democrats.
“It is clear that the USCIS Ombudsman role is now more important than ever given our severely backlogged and broken immigration system,” the Hispanic Caucus letter continues. “Ensuring that USCIS is working effectively and fairly to review cases in a timely manner is important for the growth of the economy and helps immigrant families navigate the application process.”
While critics around Kirchner’s appointment have been vocal, DHS spokesperson David Lapan calls the level of alarm “unfounded.” He tells The Washington Post, “Julie Kirchner is an experienced and accomplished attorney with expertise in immigration issues. She is unquestionably an expert in immigration policy and law, and as such, is well qualified to fulfill the duties of the office.”