Top asylum official reassigned to processing center after release of critical email

Top asylum official reassigned to processing center after release of critical email
© Stefani Reynolds

John Lafferty, the head of asylum for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), has been reassigned as deputy director of a Virginia service center following an email in which he criticized the agency’s demands on his office, although it was unclear whether the email prompted the reassignment, according to BuzzFeed.

Lafferty’s reassignment was personally directed by acting USCIS head Ken Cuccinelli, according to BuzzFeed, citing a source with knowledge of the move. Lafferty had held his position for six years.

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Officials within USCIS told BuzzFeed the move has other staffers concerned Cuccinelli may use similar tactics on other dissenters in the ranks and that it may leave the agency ill-equipped to legally defend its policies.

“This is just another attack on the asylum system,” one USCIS official who was not authorized to speak to the media told the outlet. “To remove someone with his knowledge of and history with the program will cause damage. The administration views him as just another loophole.”

Lafferty has been responsible for issuing guidance for several recent changes to the asylum system, including barring migrants who traveled through Mexico from applying for asylum in the U.S.

In guidance to asylum officers, Lafferty wrote that they were “once again being asked to adapt and to do so with very little time to train and prepare,” according to BuzzFeed.

“This is shocking and distressing news for the civil servants in the Asylum Division,” another USCIS official told BuzzFeed. “A very sad day where an incredibly sophisticated, highly dedicated, and ethical leader is being removed from an important position in the agency.”

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.