To ensure the President cannot appoint anyone he likes, the Director of USCIS has to be confirmed by the Senate. However, Trump could forgo a formal Senate process and have Ken Cuccinelli fill other roles within and/or outside USCIS. If successful, Cuccinelli could affect immigration policy in accordance with the Trump administration’s goals.
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While former Director Francis Cissna worked to end DACA, removed a temporary protected status for many countries and made the process of getting H-1B visas very difficult for U.S. employers – it was apparently not enough to thwart legal immigration.
Cissna’s actions were in line with the Trump administration’s agenda, but he wasn’t accomplishing policy change fast enough. Cissna was, however, regarded as an immigration policy expert with a lot of experience and GOP support – something Cuccinelli is severely lacking.
Cuccinelli is an immigration hardliner and Trump fanatic who is widely resented among Republicans and Democrats alike. Cuccelini is an outspoken immigration hawk that litigated against Obama policies as a state attorney general but has no experience implementing or writing any immigration laws or regulations.
Cuccinelli’s lack of immigration expertise could very well play to the advantage of Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior advisors. Since Cuccinelli neither has a definitive understanding of how complex immigration policy should be written nor a strong opinion of what that policy should be, he would be more likely to defer to Miller’s policy and legislation interpretations.
Danielle Spooner, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees (which represents all USCIS employees), wrote that Cuccinelli’s lack of experience was part of Trump’s vision for the future of USCIS. “How better to do that [end immigration] than 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,” she wrote.
Spooner continued, “It has become clear that the goal of this Administration is to end immigration altogether.” Trump’s expected nomination of Ken Cuccinelli “spells the end of legal immigration as it currently exists,” Spooner’s statement read.
Mitch McConnell has pledged to block Cuccinelli’s nomination because Cuccinelli signed a letter in 2016 calling for McConnell to step down. Cuccinelli leads the Senate Conservatives Fund that supports conservative candidates for Congress that has regularly attacked McConnell.
As Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli’s relentlessly fought to repeal LGBTQ rights, access to affordable healthcare and worked to eliminate access to abortion. Cuccinelli unsuccessfully ran for the Virginia State Governor position in 2013.