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Buzzfeed reported on Saturday that a “US Army director recently offered a job as deputy director of the federal agency that oversees immigration applications [USCIS] made anti-Muslim statements and posts on Facebook in recent years.” In a statement to Buzzfeed, a USCIS spokesman said that after “a full and open competition in compliance with all Office of Personnel Management guidance for career vacancies in the Senior Executive Service, including assembling resume review and interview panels as part of the standard hiring process,” Guy Sands-Pingot was selected, though he “is no longer slated to commence employment at USCIS.”
Sands-Pingot is the latest in a series of appointments to key positions with individuals who have made similar comments and later resigned, including Carl Higbie, Ian Smith, Jamie Johnson, Christine Bauserman, William Bradford and Todd Johnson. Unlike the appointment of Sands-Pingot as the career USCIS Deputy Director, however, the other appointments were for political positions — and that makes all the difference.
As the USCIS spokesperson told Buzzfeed, the USCIS Deputy Director is a career position that is supposed to be devoid of political influence. Furthermore, like other career positions, the appointment of the career USCIS deputy director is a permanent one that will outlast current political appointees who generally serve the President and depart once a new President arrives. This means the non-political deputy director would remain even after the Trump administration and would become the acting director until the next politically-appointed director is appointed under a new President. If Sands-Pingot’s appointment had gone forward, he would have remained even after the end of President Trump’s tenure.
Moreover, deputy directors are generally charged with managing agencies, a tremendous responsibility and power over the actions of an agency. For USCIS, that means managing “19,000 government employees and contractors working at more than 200 offices across the world” who annually adjudicate 6 million immigration requests, either under a politically-appointed director or as acting director in the absence of a politically-appointed director.
Ur Jaddou, former USCIS Chief Counsel and Director of DHS Watch, a project of America’s Voice, said:
Unlike the appointment of like-minded political appointees to key administration positions, the appointment of like-minded career, public servants to key government positions will outlast the current President and could result in years of Trump immigration policy well after Trump departs office. Had the anti-Muslim remarks by Sands-Pingot not come to light, Sands-Pingot could have implemented his views for many years to come at USCIS in a powerful management and acting director position, even under a new President with different views. Furthermore, this appointment raises questions about the hiring process for Sands-Pingot. Given his remarks, was the process truly devoid of political influence as required for career public service positions such as this one?