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Few people in El Paso, Texas, know more about immigration law than Guadalupe Gonzalez, a lawyer who has prosecuted illegal immigration cases along the Texas border for nearly 25 years. In 2002, after seeing an advertisement, she applied — and was passed over — for an opening on the local bench of one of the nation’s 54 immigration courts. But when two more vacancies arose in 2004, nobody bothered to tell Gonzalez. In fact, the positions were never advertised.

Instead, the Justice Department’s leadership, which oversees the immigration courts, used a little-known power to appoint two lower-level attorneys — both of whom Gonzalez had supervised at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in El Paso — to the $115,000-a-year positions.

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