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On Wednesday, Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli testified before Congress about his decision to end deferred action for critically ill children and their families. He admitted it was his decision to end this USCIS policy, reiterated that it was the current Acting Secretary’s decision to reinstate it, and refused to commit to keeping the policy if he is elevated to Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Notwithstanding legal concerns raised by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, according to CNN, Cuccinelli was a top contender for DHS Secretary which would have empowered him to reverse McAleenan’s decision to reinstate deferred action at USCIS. Although Politico suggests Cuccinelli will no longer be appointed to the Secretary position, the record shows Trump is clearly enamored with him and he will likely continue in a key immigration role.
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “If Cuccinelli can’t even commit to protecting very sick children and their families from deportation, imagine what further havoc he will wreak as part of Trump’s “inner circle.” He has already ended critical parole programs for elderly Filipino veterans hoping to reunite with their family before it’s too late, ended the Haitian parole program, made it harder for children born overseas to parents who are U.S. citizens — often those serving in the military abroad — to become citizens, substantially closed offices where servicemembers could naturalize, and the list goes on and on. And he’s only been in his position for less than five months.”
Cuccinelli Falsely Claims USCIS Has No Authority to Administer Deferred Action, a Program Long Administered by USCIS and Repeatedly Acknowledged by Congress
During the hearing, Acting Director Cuccinelli stated that it was inappropriate for USCIS to grant deferred action and that, instead, ICE should be performing that function. He even tried to argue that, historically-speaking, ICE is the agency to consider requests for deferred action. Never mind that USCIS authority to grant deferred action is well grounded in a legal delegation of authority from the DHS Secretary issued more than 15 years ago just when USCIS was created under DHS. Never mind that, according to Penn State Law Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, USCIS has a long history in adjudicating and granting deferred action for medical and other humanitarian cases. Never mind that Congress has officially recognized and approved the practice of deferred action multiple times — including well after it was established inside USCIS — for victims of domestic violence, victims of torture and other crimes, for family members killed in combat, and family members of some who were killed on September 11, 2001.