WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has canceled a news-clip service for employees in its immigration review office after Monday’s edition included a link to and summary of a blog post from a white nationalist website that used an anti-Semitic slur, officials said Friday.
In an email Friday, employees at the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) were told “the Communications and Legislative Affairs Division will no longer distribute a daily news briefing within EOIR,” and then gave the employees instructions for how to sign up for a different departmentwide briefing service if they wish to receive those notifications.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said that after a review of the daily news aggregation emails, “we have determined that the sampling was over inclusive and contained non-news sources. EOIR will no longer be distributing a daily news briefing to its staff. EOIR strongly condemns anti-Semitism and white nationalism. Those hateful beliefs do not reflect the views of EOIR employees and the Department of Justice.”
She said the office will not renew its contract with the private company, TechMIS, that provided the service.
The Justice Department called the Florida-headquartered firm on Friday and explained its decision. The contract expires at the end of August.
TechMIS CEO Steve Mains said the company did its job as specified under the contract, and that Justice Department officials decided to share the material widely.
“We’ve been asked by them not to censor the news, so we provide the entire universe of news about EOIR and then what’s distributed is up to them,” said Mains. “We provide it to them, they go through it with a fine tooth comb and decide what they want to keep, what they want to remove, and if they have any issues. . . . If there’s something out there that’s particularly critical of a judge or someone in EOIR, it’s our job, we were paid to provide that to EOIR and it’s up to them whether they distribute it to everybody.”
The controversy arose after a daily summary of news stories sent to employees Monday included a link to Vdare.com, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has branded a hate group.
The Vdare post, about an effort by the Trump administration to possibly decertify the union representing immigration judges, singles out multiple judges by name, uses their photos and refers to them with an anti-Semitic slur. It also used a derogatory Nazi-era term for the media.
The Washington Post has found that an edited version of the same story, published under a different headline on a different website, was also sent out to EOIR employees again on Tuesday, but it did not include the controversial anti-Semitic term, or the Nazi-era reference to the media.
The Justice Department sent the briefings to all EOIR employees, including its 400-some immigration judges, which means the judges named and pictured in the derogatory post also received the link to it this week – from their employer.
Staff did not receive a briefing email Friday morning.
The briefing email controversy arose the same week as President Donald Trump faced accusations of anti-Semitism for asserting that Jewish people who vote for Democrats show “great disloyalty” and for praising Henry Ford, a virulent anti-Semite.
The National Association of Immigration Judges lambasted the briefing in a letter to EOIR Director James McHenry. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, the group’s president and one of the judges highlighted in the post, wrote that the union had received numerous complaints from judges across the country.
“The post features links and content that directly attacks sitting Immigration Judges with racial and ethnically tinged slurs and the label ‘Kritarch,’ ” Tabaddor said in the letter.
When used with a negative tone, the reference to kritarchy, a biblical term for a system of rule by judges in ancient Israel, is “deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” she wrote. “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.”
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The Washington Post’s Julie Tate and Reis Thebault contributed to this report.