Cuccinelli gets in heated exchange with 'Squad' member on health care for migrants

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), got into a heated exchange Wednesday with Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleySanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire Booker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE (D-Mass.) over a health care decision affecting migrants.

Pressley pressed Cuccinelli during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing over the USCIS's decision in August to stop accepting deferred-action requests for migrants receiving-saving medical treatment. Officials have since reversed course and resumed processing some non-military deferred-action requests.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is among a group of minority progressive lawmakers in the House known as "The Squad," asked whether President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE or his senior White House adviser for policy Stephen MillerStephen MillerSenate Democrats demand Trump fire Stephen Miller Marianne Williamson roasted for claim Trump pardoned Charles Manson Juan Williams: Stephen Miller must be fired MORE had any influence in the decision-making process.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cuccinelli testified that it was his decision “as the acting director” of USCIS to not defer the deportations, while saying he stood by the USCIS’s decision last month to continue processing some requests from migrants seeking to avoid deportation.

“Did Stephen Miller play a role in this decision or not?” Pressley asked the acting director.

“I’m not going to get in specific commentary back and forth but I made this decision. The only discussions had over the course –” Cuccinelli responded.

“I’m sorry, again, for the record –” Pressley interrupted.

“Yes, this is for the record and as you noted I am under oath so I want to be completely truthful,” the acting director answered.

Pressley interrupted Cuccinelli several times, apologizing and saying she had limited time for her questions. She maintained she was asking a “yes or no” question about whether the White House was involved in the decision.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m not going to answer the way you want me to answer. I”m going to give you an honest and accurate answer," he said.

“No, I’m asking you to answer yes or no: Was the president involved in this decision?”

“We cannot, as you well know, talk about content of discussions with the White House,” Cuccinelli said.

After more back-and-forth, Cuccinelli told the committee, “I made the decision alone.”

The controversial decision in question sparked backlash against USCIS for indicating it would force migrants facing medical issues to be deported.

A USCIS spokesperson told The Hill in August that the requests for deferred action were going to be handled through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Associated Press, which first reported the decision to stop accepting deferred action requests through USCIS, reported that USCIS documents sent to applicants did not mention ICE taking over the requests.