In 2012, anti-immigrant extremist and failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli compared immigrants to rats. Now he’ll be heading an agency that process and oversees immigrants’ naturalization documents. Donald Trump has named Cuccinelli the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, historically a paper-pushing agency that is being radically transformed under the racist policies of this administration.
Under former head Lee Francis Cissna, USCIS removed “a nation of immigrants” from the agency’s mission statement and began shutting down international offices under supposed fiscal responsibility claims. But even that wasn’t enough to spare Cissna from White House aide and white supremacist Stephen Miller’s purge of top administration officials, including former Department of Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen, and Cissna was effectively fired late last month.
Cuccinelli was reportedly in the running to become the new immigration czar, but will now instead become the latest Trump official to serve in an acting capacity, which requires no Senate confirmation. The appointment in this capacity is on purpose. “Politico reported on this as a possibility last week,” tweeted reporter Eliana Johnson, “since there was no way he could win Senate confirmation.”
With Cuccinelli’s appointment, Think Progress reports that “the Stephen Miller-ification of DHS officially begins,” with Cuccinelli himself confirming it, emailing his new agency that he’ll “work to find long-term solutions to close asylum loopholes that encourage many to make the dangerous journey into the United States so that those who truly need humanitarian protections … receive them.” Asylum is not a loophole but that’s talking point Trump is using in sending children and families back to the death they’re escaping from.
Trump’s move is welcomed by racists like Miller but not by those advocating for the overall mission of USCIS itself. “The resignation of Francis Lee Cissna as Director of USCIS and the possible appointment of Ken Cuccinelli as his successor spells the end of legal immigration as it currently exists,” said Danielle Spooner, president of the American Federation of Government Employee, which represents USCIS employees.
“It has become clear that the goal of this Administration is to end immigration all together,” she continued. “How better to do that then by appointing as the leader of USCIS someone who knows nothing about immigration, Adjustment of Status or Naturalization, and whose sole purpose is to destroy the agency that grants these benefits?”