Anti-immigrant loudmouth Ken Cuccinelli was unlawfully appointed to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a federal judge decided on Sunday, ruling that, as CNN reported, “Cuccinelli's appointment violated a statute that governs how most federal vacancies are filled.” The decision in the lawsuit, which was launched by a number of advocacy groups on behalf of seven asylum-seekers last year, voids at least one anti-asylum policy intended to speed up the deportations of vulnerable families.
Since the day Cuccinelli was hand-picked to lead an agency that’s supposed to help facilitate legal immigration, even though he once compared immigrants to rodents, advocates have argued not just that this anti-immigrant goofball was wholly unqualified for the job, but also that his placement was unlawful. “After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to block Cuccinelli’s confirmation for any position, the Trump administration did an end run around the law with the extraordinary step of creating a new office for Cuccinelli in order to install him as the acting head of USCIS,” Democracy Forward, which joined with RAICES, CLINIC, and the law firm Proskauer Rose to sue, said last year.
Among the harmful changes implemented by Cuccinelli, a failed statewide candidate for elected office in Virginia, was chopping in half the time that asylum-seekers have “to consult a lawyer and prepare evidence to substantiate their fear of persecution which can leave them just a few hours to prepare for their interview, if that,” the groups said in their lawsuit. When he hasn’t been busy trying to deport asylum-seekers faster, Cuccinelli has also been a loudmouth for the administration on cable news, supporting immigration raids and other awful shit that had zip to do with his job at USCIS.
Cuccinelli was also named as a defendant in a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s inhumane decision to end deportation relief for sick people undergoing lifesaving medical treatment, which USCIS ended without so much as a public announcement, instead just mailing letters to families across the country informing them their protections would be removed in 33 days. Under widespread condemnation and pressure from folks directly affected, such as Jonathan Sanchez and Maria Isabel Bueso, the administration backed off the move.
Regarding the ruling from this past weekend, the plaintiffs said, “The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the Trump administration made an unlawful end run around the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, by taking the extraordinary and unprecedented step of creating a new office for Cuccinelli in order to install him as the acting head of USCIS, finding that ‘the structure and purpose of the FVRA further confirm that Cuccinelli was not lawfully designated to serve.’”
Cuccinelli has since been appointed deputy secretary of homeland security—and, of course, in an acting capacity, because finding confirmable candidates to be in charge of federal agencies is for competent administrations. This appointment has likewise been criticized by a number of lawmakers, including House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “The CHC is gravely concerned that DHS’s top officials may be serving in violation of the law,” the group told the Government Accountability Office comptroller general in December, “and will continue to do so until the GAO makes a determination.”
Cuccinelli doesn’t belong in any office, period. “Today's ruling is a big win that confirms Ken Cuccinelli’s installation and service as acting director of USCIS was unlawful,” Democracy Forward’s Anne Harkavy said in a statement. “This is both a victory for the rule of law and a significant blow to the Trump administration's xenophobic agenda. We are proud to share this legal victory with the brave asylum seekers who brought the Trump administration to court to ensure that the United States stays true to its tradition of providing a haven for those fleeing persecution and seeking asylum in America."