Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder’s Immigration Office

Earlier this week, PJM commenced a series of articles highlighting the army of new attorneys hired for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by the Obama administration. PJM based its reporting on resumes that were finally turned over following a lengthy Freedom of Information Act battle with the Department.


The intent of the request was to examine the hiring practices of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. During the Bush administration, left-wing activists claimed that by hiring conservatives Bush was “politicizing” the Civil Rights Division.

Five years ago, the Boston Globe created a political storm when it filed a FOIA request for resumes from the Bush administration. The newspaper claimed the attorney general was “quietly remaking the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division” by filling it with moderate and conservative lawyers. For the Globe, this was a scandal of monumental proportions. After the Globe article was published, this claim was repeated by left-wing activists across the country.

This time, however, now that the Obama resumes are finally public, the mainstream media has gone silent.

They claim there is no story here, that the Civil Rights Division has simply hired civil rights liberals.

We are not surprised by their omissions in reporting the facts. In our series, we decided to simply present all the facts in detail, as an objective observer would have a difficult time accepting their conclusion.

We first focused on the Voting Section, with an exhaustive article by Hans von Spakovsky and a follow-up by DOJ whistleblower and PJM contributor J. Christian Adams. Both highlighted the hiring of activists who have embraced radical political agendas far outside of the legal mainstream.

Today we turn to the Civil Rights Division’s immigration office — a unit formally known as the “Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices,” although it is nearly always referred to by its acronym “OSC.” This section is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and it spends the bulk of its time seeking to protect “green card” holders from employment discrimination.


As the OSC profiles attest, many of these new attorneys are overtly hostile to enforcement of our country’s immigration laws. Some have devoted their careers to militant left-wing movements, including anarchist and anti-corporate campaigns. One new hire was even part of an organization that endorsed indicting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with war crimes. But the common thread among the new hires is previous activity fighting for illegal aliens, even against the police and law enforcement. These lawyers now control the levers of state power to pursue their political agendas.

Also worrisome: OSC ran a substantial grant program, doling out approximately $750,000 every year to immigration advocacy organizations that educate the public about the statutory protections afforded to documented workers. Scores of immigration advocacy groups are handsomely subsidized by the taxpayer. They include such groups as the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn, Michigan, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Legal Aid Society of New York, and the National Immigration Law Center. (One of the grant applicants during the Bush years was the now-discredited ACORN, although its applications were consistently denied.) In one of the few sensible cost cutting decisions that Congress has made lately, the grant program has been suspended.

Five attorneys have been hired into OSC since Attorney General Holder took office, each one more radical than the next.

Elizabeth Hack: Ms. Hack was hired as the Special Litigation Counsel for OSC, the Section’s number two ranking official. A long-time Democratic activist, she contributed $2,500 to Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential election cycle, the maximum amount permitted by law, as well as another $500 to his political action committee back in 2006.


Ms. Hack’s real problem occurred while she was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division in the mid-1990s. During that period, she was co-lead counsel in the Division’s infamous disparate impact lawsuit against the city of Torrance, California, in which she claimed that the city had discriminated against minorities in the hiring of police officers and firefighters. The district judge (a Jimmy Carter appointee) ultimately threw out the case and sanctioned the Division more than $1.7 million for pursuing an action that was entirely devoid of merit.

The case was such a stain on the Justice Department that the House Judiciary Committee convened a special oversight hearing to probe the Civil Rights Division’s shameful conduct. The testimony of Torrance’s attorney from Latham & Watkins at the hearing is nothing short of stunning for what it reveals about the shoddy work by Ms. Hack and her colleagues on the trial team.

Now Ms. Hack has been welcomed back.

Ronald Lee: Mr. Lee joined the Civil Rights Division after having served as a senior staff attorney at the liberal Asian American Justice Center. This organization is connected at the hip with Democratic Party officials and is so out of touch with its constituency that it proudly touts on its website its support of “affirmative action across the board.” (Try convening a group of Asian high school students who have benefited from affirmative action. It will be a very lonely room.)

During his time with this group, Mr. Lee spoke publicly about his opposition to Arizona’s SB1070 law that makes it a state crime for illegal aliens to commit federal immigration violations while in the state. His remarks reflected a level of naiveté and ignorance of both the statutory text and governing legal precedent.

On his resume, Mr. Lee proudly references his service as president of his law school chapter of the American Constitution Society (the liberal counterweight to the Federalist Society). He also notes he served as an editor of the activist Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.


Seema Nanda: Ms. Nanda comes to the Division from her previous position as a supervisory attorney in the National Labor Relations Board’s “Division of Advice.” The highlight of her tenure there — according to her own resume — was her guidance on a case called Mezonos Bakery in which she advocated for the back pay rights of illegal aliens. For those not steeped in labor law, this was a decision in which the NLRB essentially cast aside a 2002 Supreme Court decision holding that illegal aliens had no such rights.

Ms. Nanda has served as chair of the Board of Directors of both the Refugee Women’s Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. She also contributed $1,500 during the 2010 election cycle to Raj Goyle, a far left Democratic congressional candidate in Kansas (and former staffer at the Center for American Progress) who was ultimately trounced in the general election.

Phil Telfeyan: Mr. Telfeyan joined the Civil Rights Division straight out of a judicial clerkship and only a year after graduating law school. But his emotional liberal activism has overshadowed his legal traits. He penned an article in the Harvard Law Review titled “Never Again Should a People Starve In a World of Plenty.” The piece was panned as little more than soft ideological dribble, with one prominent blogger characterizing it as a “rather embarrassing, bleeding-heart Case Comment” and another calling it a “sanctimonious and silly moral screed.”

Mr. Telfeyan’s entire motivation for the article was his opposition to a statue on the Harvard campus which he equated with the cruelty of intergenerational inequality. As it turns out, he was fantastically wrong. Indeed, the statue actually paid homage to the victims of the Irish potato famine. Mr. Telfeyan was forced to apologize, but not before his arguments about society’s moral obligations were blasted by critics as “unserious, unexamined, unedited, and unschooled — accurate only in the gentle, non-judgmental playground of his mind.”


Nor were his activities at Harvard anything new. Indeed, the Harvard Crimson published a story on him that highlighted his activism. The Crimson described his personal frustration that he could not participate in the violent 1999 protests in Seattle in which anarchists sought to physically destroy the city based on their bizarre opposition to the World Trade Organization.

The paper went on to note that Mr. Telfeyan “claims to have staged his own protest senior year at Mira Loma. His high school tried to stop Pajama Day, a popular school spirit activity. Telfeyan reacted by going on a hunger strike and chaining himself up to an oak tree for three days. He reports that he was not completely tied up, and could have left at any time, but the move was symbolic.”

This is a Department of Justice employee.

Mr. Telfeyan’s other activities were redacted from the resume released by the Civil Rights Division in response to our FOIA request. One can only imagine what else he must be involved in.

Liza Zamd: Saving perhaps the best for last, we come to Ms. Zamd, who arrived in the Civil Rights Division after having served as a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow at a German immigration organization called PRO ASYL and at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. The latter organization describes on its website how “human rights are often violated or ignored through ruthless corporate business practices for the sake of economic gain” and laments that “those responsible are rarely called to account.” It trumpets the fact that war crimes charges were requested in Germany against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by fringe groups on the Left.

Before joining these radical outposts, Ms. Zamd worked as a staff attorney at Casa de Maryland, the same institution at which current Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez once served as president. Casa de Maryland is a far left-wing advocacy organization that generally opposes the enforcement of federal immigration law. As Hans von Spakovsky recounted, the group “has encouraged illegal aliens not to speak with police officers or immigration agents; it has fought restrictions on illegal aliens’ receiving driver’s licenses; it has urged the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department not to enforce federal fugitive warrants; it has advocated giving illegal aliens in-state tuition; and it has actively promulgated ‘day labor’ sites, where illegal aliens and disreputable employers openly skirt federal prohibitions on hiring undocumented individuals.”


Ms. Zamd’s stint at Casa de Maryland was preceded by her service as Policy Counsel for the militantly liberal National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF). While working as Policy Counsel for this organization, Ms. Zamd played an active role in trying to scuttle Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation by preparing materials claiming he was hostile to women and sharing those materials with the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has boasted of authoring a key part of the NPWF’s strident report titled “Tipping the Balance: The Record of Samuel Alito and What’s at Stake for Women.”

And what of Ms. Zamd’s views on immigration enforcement? Well, she was quoted in the Washington Examiner criticizing the arrests of illegal aliens in Anne Arundel, Maryland, claiming that “they are just victims of the broken immigration system.” Huh? She also penned an article at the annual Hispanic law conference on how to advocate for the employment rights of illegal aliens.

Meanwhile, before law school, Ms. Zamd worked as a Section 8 housing specialist at the American Red Cross in New York City and then later as a loan disbursement officer at ACCION New York, a non-profit micro-lending organization that serves minority and women clients who traditionally have little access to credit.

Filling OSC with such activists is right in line with the general immigration policy that Attorney General Holder has pursued. The Department of Justice has refused to enforce the federal immigration laws with any vigor. And it has not hesitated to launch assaults on states that have dared to challenge our weak immigration enforcement.

The American public has a right to expect that our federal bureaucrats will be enforcing the law in a non-partisan and race-neutral manner. Yet if their hiring decisions are any record, they have shown that ideology and politics prevail at the U.S. Department of Justice.



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