Julie Kirchner, former executive director of the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), has reportedly been named chief of staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that oversees Border Patrol.
Democracy Now! and the Southern Poverty Law Center are reporting Kirchner’s appointment to the role, though in a statement to Rewire CBP would only say that FAIR’s former executive director “joined the Commissioner’s Office this week to serve as an advisor. Her current assignment is a temporary political appointment.” CBP declined to comment further when pressed for more information concerning the length of Kirchner’s appointment and other specifics.
The day before President Trump’s inauguration, FAIR paid to promote its anti-immigrant agenda on Twitter, calling for an end to sanctuary cities. Kirchner reportedly left her role with FAIR in 2015 to advise Trump’s presidential campaign.
Trump cited FAIR’s anti-immigrant propaganda during his Republican National Convention speech, in which he referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegal” and characterized them as violent murderers. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which evolved from a FAIR program, is another anti-immigrant organization regularly cited by Trump and used as a reference on his campaign website for his formal immigration policies. For years, the racist, anti-immigrant propaganda put out by CIS has been treated as a credible source by mainstream media organizations.
CBP is the largest federal law enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security, with a $13.9 billion budget and a 61,000-person workforce that includes Border Patrol. If Kirchner is indeed CBP’s new chief of staff, she will support CBP’s new commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan, in operational and policy functions.
Appointing someone so closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement troubles immigration advocates, who already consider the circumstances in the borderlands “deadly” because of the thousands of migrants who have died as a direct consequence of border-enforcement policies and practices. The 100-mile zone considered the borderlands is an alleged “Constitution-free zone” where Border Patrol employees openly–and frequently–violate the civil rights of American citizens and undocumented immigrants alike.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Texas-based Border Network for Human Rights, told Rewire this month that under the Trump administration he expects to see more abuse at the border.
“Now that people feel like it’s OK to be proud of being racist [because of Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail], I think [Border Patrol] agents will be more openly racist,” Garcia said. “We will see an increased level of mistreatment and misconduct by Border Patrol agents—and there’s no way to stop it. No independent accountability measure has been put into place or will be put into place, and Congress doesn’t care. These things have been happening for a long time, but now we will face some of the most brutal aggression against immigrants and border communities.”