Mar 1, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge rules Ken Cuccinelli unlawfully ran immigration agency

Ken Cuccinelli

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

A federal district judge in D.C. ruled on Sunday that Ken Cuccinelli’s placement as the acting top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Why it matters: Policies that were put in place under Cuccinelli are now void, including a directive that gave asylum-seekers less time to consult with legal counsel before their initial "credible fear" interview with a USCIS officer.

Details: After the resignation of Senate-confirmed USCIS director Lee Cissna, deputy director Mark Koumans automatically assumed the role of acting director because he was designated as the "first assistant" under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

  • Nine days later, acting Homeland Secretary Kevin McAleenan appointed Cuccinelli to serve as principal deputy director of USCIS, a position that had not previously existed.
  • That same day, McAleenan revised the agency's order of succession to designate the newly created position as "first assistant," allowing Cuccinelli to "leapfrog" Koumans to become acting director, per the court opinion.

What they’re saying: “Today's ruling is a big win that confirms Ken Cuccinelli’s installation and service as acting director of USCIS was unlawful. This is both a victory for the rule of law and a significant blow to the Trump administration's xenophobic agenda,” Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy said in a statement.

Go deeper