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The Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review has had its share of negative publicity. Some of the nation’s 216 immigration judges have been criticized as unprofessional, and the office has been accused of bypassing civil service laws and naming Republican loyalists without immigration backgrounds to judgeships. Parallel investigations by the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility into those allegations are ongoing. So who would want to take the reins of the embattled shop? That would be Kevin Ohlson, a veteran Justice immigration executive and former prosecutor, who was named director last week. In an interview, Ohlson admits, “In a lot of instances, those criticisms were valid.” But Ohlson says he’s looking forward to changing that image. He has been deputy director since 2003, and before that he served on the Board of Immigration Appeals, another Justice component, which reviews many of the 200,000 decisions made annually by immigration judges in deportation, political asylum, and other proceedings. Ohlson, 47, says reforms — including evaluations and training for judges — announced last year by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “have gone very deep.” “Now, we are committed to helping them with their jobs. .�.�. I think everyone now understands that they are going to be held up to the highest standards.” In contrast to the recent past, Ohlson says, the office, based in Falls Church, Va., now recommends three candidates for positions before a final selection is made by Main Justice. Ohlson previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia and was chief of staff to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. under President Bill Clinton.
Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be contacted at [email protected].

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