Daily government newsletter for immigration judges included links to white nationalist website
Updated: A daily government email newsletter to immigration judges sometimes summarized or linked to articles published by a white nationalist website called VDare, according to a report by BuzzFeed News.
The email newsletter is distributed by the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to all immigration court employees, according to BuzzFeed News.
After Buzzfeed published an initial story about one of the VDare links, an EOIR spokesperson announced that the daily newsletter will be canceled and the contract with the private company that compiled the newsletter will not be renewed, Politico reports.
The issue surfaced when the union that represents immigration judges said in an Aug. 22 letter that it has received numerous complaints about a summary and link to a VDare article with anti-Semitic content. The union is the National Association of Immigration Judges.
VDare has been described as an anti-immigration hate website, and its founder has ties to white supremacist Richard Spencer, the union said in its letter to James McHenry, EOIR director.
The contractor that compiled the EOIR newsletter also compiled newsletters for other government agencies and sometimes “included links and content from hyperpartisan and conspiracy-oriented publishers,” according to a follow-up story by BuzzFeed. The publishers touted anti-immigration rhetoric and conspiracy theories, according to BuzzFeed.
Those agencies included the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The controversial post in the Aug. 19 immigration newsletter “features links and content that directly attacks sitting immigration judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs and the label ‘Kritarch,’ ” the union said in its letter.
“The reference to Kritarch in a negative tone is deeply offensive and anti-Semitic. The Kritarchy is a reference to ancient Israel during the time when there was rule by judges, as described in the Book of Judges, part of the Old Testament. 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,” the union said.
The VDare article was about a Justice Department move to decertify the immigration judges union. It pictured several immigration judges and inserted the word “kritarch” before their names, according to BuzzFeed.
An EOIR spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the blog post should not have been included. “The Department of Justice condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest terms,” said the spokesperson, Kathryn Mattingly.
The Florida company that compiles the newsletters is TechMIS. Its CEO, Steven Mains, told BuzzFeed that the EOIR newsletter had linked to seven VDare articles since September 2018 out of about 20,000 links and articles.
Mains said EOIR staff reviewed the newsletters before they were circulated “down to misspellings.”
Mains told the Washington Post that the newsletter content was based on searches using key words supplied by the Justice Department.
“We make no editorial judgments based on viewpoints, but present the customer with all the news that fits their criteria,” Mains told the Washington Post.
Immigration lawyer Matthew Hoppock writes about the EOIR and has researched the newsletter. He tells the Washington Post he received every newsletter under a freedom of information request, and he was appalled at how many stories were included from right-wing websites the Daily Caller and Breitbart News.
“The substance is really gross,” Hoppock told the Washington Post. “Sometimes they link to the Washington Post or BuzzFeed, but a lot of times it’s just nonsense. It feels like propaganda.”
Updated at 11:50 a.m. to include information from subsequent articles.