Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli today was appointed acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced.
“I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at this critical time and serve alongside this agency’s dedicated workforce,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “USCIS has the extraordinary responsibility to administer and protect the integrity of our nation’s lawful immigration system. Our nation has the most generous legal immigration system in the world and we must zealously safeguard its promise for those who lawfully come here. I look forward to working with the men and women of USCIS to ensure our legal immigration system operates effectively and efficiently while deterring fraud and protecting the American people.”
June 1 was the last official day on the job for Director Frank Cissna, who told employees on May 24 that “at the request of the president” he would be stepping down from the agency.
“As an immigration law and policy professional dedicated to the rule of law like so many of you, I appreciate that this opportunity to serve was a unique experience,” Cissna wrote in the agency email.
The resignation didn’t come as a surprise, as rumors had circulated since early April that President Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller wanted Cissna out. That sparked pushback from senior Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), who asked the White House to stop the Department of Homeland Security purges: Ron Vitiello was out as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on April 12, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Management and Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Claire Grady was forced to resign on April 10, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stepped down the same day.
Days before Cissna announced his resignation, news broke that Cuccinelli was expected to be named to an undefined role at DHS — though not “immigration czar” — to direct administration immigration policy goals.
After Cissna resigned, administration officials told multiple outlets that Cuccinelli would eventually be nominated to the post by Trump.
“Mr. Cuccinelli is an anti-immigrant fringe figure that has no business leading a component that is supposed to administer our nation’s legal immigration system,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in statement today. “Besides being a right-wing commentator, Cuccinelli is completely unqualified to the lead USCIS and likely wants to decimate the agency Congress charged with handling our immigration and refugee programs. With both Democrats and Republicans opposing him, there is no reason for President Trump to instill someone who has no chance of Senate confirmation.”
In fiscal year 2018, 19,000 employees and contractors at USCIS processed more than 8.7 million requests for immigration benefits.
American Federation of Government Employees president Danielle Spooner declared last month that Cuccinelli “knows nothing about immigration, Adjustment of Status or Naturalization” and has a “sole purpose” to “destroy the agency that grants these benefits.” The union represents staffers at USCIS.