Ken Cuccinelli, an immigration hawk and vocal defender of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal and legal immigration, was installed on Wednesday as the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security.
Cuccinelli, who has been leading U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since June, was named acting deputy secretary of the sprawling bureaucratic juggernaut, a department now at the center of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration agenda.
In an email to DHS employees, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who was also sworn in to his new role on Wednesday, praised Cuccinelli.
“Ken Cuccinelli has been a constant and vocal advocate for the men and women of the Department who are protecting our borders and restoring integrity to our immigration system,” Wolf said in the email.
David Pekoske, the previous acting deputy director of DHS, will resume his Senate-confirmed role as Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
In his new role, Cuccinelli will continue to push the administration’s controversial policies designed to deter unauthorized immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border and to severely restrict legal immigration. Since he joined the administration in June, Cuccinelli has become the de facto spokesperson for the department, frequently advocating for Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda and defending the president’s rhetoric on television and Twitter.
As head of USCIS, Cuccinelli unveiled the “public charge” rule that would make it easier for the government to deny green cards and visas to low income immigrants who use — or are likely to use — welfare benefits like food stamps and government housing programs. He has also sought to discourage migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, recently proposing the first-ever charge for asylum applications, as well as a rule to deny work authorization to most asylum seekers.
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