The leadership of Department of Homeland Security just got a whole lot worse—and yes, that’s absolutely possible. Chad Wolf, a former chief of staff to former department head Kirstjen Nielsen, was sworn in as acting secretary on Wednesday, becoming the fifth person to be in charge of the department under Donald Trump.
Wolf was sworn in even after lying under oath to senators about his role in the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the state-sanctioned kidnapping of thousands of children at the southern U.S. border. During a hearing this past June, Wolf replied, “No, ma’am,” when Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen asked him if had a hand in creating it, but internal emails say otherwise.
Facing repercussions for committing a crime is for the little people, and in the Trump administration it’s a ticket to a promotion, not just for Wolf, but for anti-immigrant radical and acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli, whom Wolf has named as his new deputy. “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 an email announcing the new role.
That was part of the problem: Cuccinelli spent so much of his official time on Twitter and cable news defending shit that had nothing to do with his job—like workplace immigration raids and family separation— while helping Trump and noted white supremacist Stephen Miller lay waste to USCIS to the point that USCIS officers en masse asked a court to block a “racist and illegal” policy blocking Central Americans and others from the right to apply for protections here.
That’s not even including Cuccinelli’s history of being an anti-immigrant loudmouth, which includes comparing immigrants to rats. House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson criticized Wolf’s appointment but left his most blistering criticism for Cuccinelli’s transfer to DHS. “It seems that President Trump just couldn’t fight the urge to play to his base by elevating Ken Cuccinelli to another senior leadership position at DHS that he is wholly unqualified for,” he said. “Mr. Cuccinelli is nothing more than an anti-immigrant fringe figure and Trump sycophant.”
Cuccinelli never gave a crap about USCIS’ mission to welcome immigrants, but he sure liked stifling it. Now he’s closer than he’s ever been in his life to helping shape anti-immigrant policies that stretch far beyond USCIS. “Cuccinelli was too extreme for Virginia, which rejected him, and has done a terrible job [at] USCIS, so it's natural that Trump would promote him,” said Virginia Rep. Don Beyer. “His awful policies have been so nativist and discriminatory that even Senate Republicans oppose confirming him.”