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Former Virginia Attorney General’s Appointment as Head of USCIS Ruled Illegal

Posted by Hugo Valverde | Mar 13, 2020 | 0 Comments

Photo by Kealan Burke on Unsplash

A federal judge in Washington D.C. has ruled that former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli's appointment by President Trump as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last year was done unlawfully. 

Cuccinelli, who was Attorney General of Virginia from January 2010 to January 2014, was appointed in 2019 as Acting Director of USCIS. The complications arose from what the judge found to be violations of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law governing who is eligible to lead federal agencies in an acting capacity. Cuccinelli was named as “principal deputy director” in June of 2019, but that job title immediately made him acting director of USCIS as former director Lee Francis Cissna had just resigned. 

Judge Randolph Moss's interpretation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act made him determine that the creation of Cuccinelli's job title did not meet the necessary legal standard to appoint him as acting director. 

Accordingly, two policies that Cuccinelli made as acting director were also ruled unlawful. 

On July 2, 2019, three weeks after being appointed acting director, Cucinelli sent out a directive that “(1) reduced the time allotted for asylum seekers to consult with others prior to their credible-fear interviews from 72 or 48 hours to ‘one full calendar day from the date of arrival at a detention facility,' (“reduced-time-to-consult directive”), and (2) prohibited asylum officers from granting asylum seekers extensions of time to prepare for their credible-fear interviews, ‘except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.'”

The Judge's ruling opens the potential for other USCIS decisions made by Cuccinelli to be challenged in Court.

The Trump Administration plans on appealing the ruling.

About the Author

Hugo Valverde

Hugo's passion for immigration law stems from his own family's immigration experience. His father and mother came to the United States from Peru fleeing political persecution, and as he grew up, Hugo spent many summers in Peru. Hugo uses his experience growing up in an immigrant family and time a...


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