Report: Nepotism in immigration court intern hires

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2014 1:50 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top three officials at the Justice Department agency that oversees the federal immigration court system used their positions to help relatives get paid internships, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz found that Executive Office for Immigration Review Director Juan Osuna, Board of Immigration Appeals Chairman David Neal and Chief Immigration Judge Brian O'Leary each used their positions to help four relatives get hired in the agency's Student Temporary Employment Program between 2007 and 2010.

Horowitz also found that that between 2007 and 2012, about 16 percent of the 200 interns hired were relatives of employees within the court system.

Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said the report was being reviewed but that changes had previously been made to the department's hiring policies. Training on the revised hiring rules started earlier this year, she said.

Horowitz started investigating in 2013 after EOIR officials disclosed concerns about past hires. The disclosure, Horowitz wrote, was prompted by a 2012 report on improper hiring practices in the Justice Management Division.

In 2008, Osuna, who was then acting chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA, told a subordinate of his niece's interest in working at EOIR and then passed along her resume, according to the report. He helped her come back to the agency in 2009. The inspector general found that both efforts "violated several statutes and regulations, including the federal nepotism statute."

Neal was found to have violated the nepotism statute by helping his son get an internship in 2010. At the time Neal was acting head of the BIA. The inspector general also found that in 2007, when Neal was chief immigration judge, he passed along his daughter's resume to an EOIR employee, but investigations concluded there was not enough evidence to determine if he advocated for her to be hired. But investigators concluded that he used poor judgment in passing along the resume.

O'Leary, who was an immigration judge in 2009, was found to have intervened in the hiring process to make sure his daughter was selected for a particular EOIR unit.

The inspector general's findings were referred to the Office of the Deputy Attorney general for review and possible disciplinary action.

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Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.