Senate votes to confirm key Trump immigration official
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The Senate cleared a key immigration pick on Thursday as debate over the issue heats up on Capitol Hill. 

Senators voted 54-43 to confirm Lee Francis Cissna as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 

Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Indiana New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator North Dakota New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck MORE (N.D.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSotomayor: Kavanaugh now part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ Trump to nominate former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as next EPA administrator Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader MORE (W.Va.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillJosh Hawley will defend the First Amendment and religious liberty Missouri New Members 2019 2020 politics make an immigration deal unlikely in lame-duck MORE (Mo.) — who are all up for reelection next year — voted for his nomination.

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USCIS is the agency in charge of granting visas, residency and other permits for foreign citizens to enter, visit, live and work in the United States. 

Cissna cleared the Judiciary Committee in May with only two Democratic senators voting against him.

At the time, the White House blasted Democrats for holding up a slew of nominees, including Cissna. But it was GOP Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Expert says Senate will be up for grabs in 2020 The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (R-N.C.) who further delayed Cissna’s nomination by subjecting him to a “hold” — which allows one senator to effectively block a nomination from being scheduled for a vote — as he pushed the Department of Homeland Security to clear additional H-2B visas. 

“Several senators, including Sen. Tillis, have concerns with DHS’ timeline because it would negatively impact seasonal small businesses and American workers across the nation this summer,” a spokesman for the senator told The Washington Times in July

The visas are given to seasonal nonagricultural workers. 

Immigration groups also urged the Senate to reject Cissna, arguing he would help advance President Trump's “cruel policies targeting immigrants” and that he provided “technical assistance” on Trump's immigration executive orders. 

The letter, signed by more than 300 groups, also references a ProPublica report that Cissna helped draft letters while working for Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump set to have close ally Graham in powerful chairmanship Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel McConnell: Criminal justice bill unlikely this year MORE’s (R-Iowa) office “criticizing USCIS for implementing various humanitarian programs and initiatives.” 

They added that if senators didn’t reject Cissna, they should “at the very least” hold up his nomination until Congress and the White House “implement a permanent legislative solution to address the temporary nature of DACA.” 

The administration announced last month that it would phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Lawmakers are struggling to come up with a plan amid competing demands from conservative House members and Democrats.