Immigration Chief Unlawfully Named, Lacks Authority: Judge

Ken Cuccinelli didn't have right to give asylum seekers less time to prepare for interviews
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 2, 2020 12:51 AM CST
Judge: Head of Immigration Agency Was Unlawfully Named
In this Oct. 30, 2019,photo, Ken Cuccinelli, then acting director for US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, testifies during a House Oversight subcommittee hearing on deportation of critically ill children .   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

A federal judge has ruled that Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to lead the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency and, as a result, lacked authority to give asylum seekers less time to prepare for initial screening interviews. Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and an immigration hardliner, was named to a new position of "principal deputy director" in June, which immediately made him acting director because Lee Francis Cissna had just resigned. The agency grants green cards and other visas and also oversees asylum officers. US District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington found Cuccinelli's appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law governing who is eligible to lead federal agencies in an acting capacity.

The impact of the ruling wasn't immediately clear, the AP reports. The judge wrote that Cuccinelli didn't qualify for exceptions for officials who won Senate approval for other positions or spent 90 days in the previous year at the agency. Moss, an Obama appointee, set aside a Cuccinelli directive to give asylum seekers less time to consult attorneys before an initial screening interview, but his decision applies only to the five Hondurans who sued. He did not address other Cuccinelli actions. Cuccinelli is now acting deputy Homeland Security secretary, the department's No. 2 position. Joseph Edlow, a longtime congressional aide who joined Citizenship and Immigration Services in July, was named last month to run the agency's day-to-day operations.

(More Ken Cuccinelli stories.)

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