Cuccinelli mocks lady liberty and attacks our nation's values

Cuccinelli mocks lady liberty and attacks our nation's values
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When the Trump administration trots out one of its most ardent, anti-immigrant cabinet members to announce a new policy that will deny people who have sought assistance a chance at the American dream, we know we are no longer talking about immigration policy. 

We are now in the full and unapologetic territory of the Trump administration — slowly chipping away at the foundation of our great nation as a place of diversity, hope and tolerance. 

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), recently announced new rules, which continue to mock our founding principles.

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He reinterpreted the sentiment behind the words to the Emma Lazarus' poem, "The New Colossus," inscribed on a bronze tablet at the Statue of Liberty, by saying: "Give me your tired and your poor — who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

Later Tuesday, he went on CNN to infer that Lazarus' poem doesn't apply to today's immigrants because the poem "was referring back to people coming from Europe."

Let's remember that this is the same man who, in 2012,  praised Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingOcasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center Steve King jokes about China forcing Muslims to eat pork MORE (R-Iowa) as one of his very favorite congressmen. Suggesting that white supremacy was not a reprehensible idea led to Rep. King being stripped of all his committee assignments by his fellow Republicans.

But Cuccinelli's anti-immigrant statements go further back. In 2007, Cuccinelli promoted the false idea that immigrants bring crime; overwhelming evidence shows the opposite to be true. 

In 2008, he became the chief sponsor of a bill that would ban citizenship for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, calling them "anchor babies." And in 2010, he sponsored legislation in Virginia that would have forced employees to speak English in the workplace.

He has recently praised anti-Muslim leaders and, in 2018, he said there is no "due process" for undocumented immigrants when invoking war powers,"you just point them back across the river and let them swim for it." He has also compared immigration policy to pest control. 

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This sort of language and positions led him to a failed gubernatorial race in Virginia in 2013, following a stint as state senator from 2002 until 2010, and then a term as state attorney general, where his anti-immigrant sentiment is matched only by his homophobia. Now, he has found a way back into government in the every-day-is-a-new-low Trump administration.

Since taking that place, he has maintained the enormous amount of application backlogs before USCIS, with over713,000 immigrants waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed, with delays that exceed 20 months in some offices. 

The day after Congress held a hearing on the backlogs, and USCIS pledged to use all of its resources towards addressing this issue, it was reported that USCIS was asking its employees to volunteer their time to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with its "Remain in Mexico" program, which denies entry to asylum seekers and places them in great, and possibly deadly, danger in Mexico. 

Cuccinelli seemingly serves as a talking head for Trump's most extreme policies. This is the man making decisions at USCIS that impact millions of immigrants applying for green cards each year. In effect, the system penalizes them for not being wealthy and for seeking to feed themselves and their children, and to access life-changing assistance in health care and housing.

These policies will maintain a "second wall" of barriers to citizenship by limiting the pool of applicants who are eligible for lawful permanent residency in the first place. 

We urge the Senate to hold the administration accountable for placing Cuccinelli as the head of USCIS without a Senate confirmation. 

Congress has a responsibility to hold this administration accountable and transparent, and it must do so before the damage it does is irreversible.

Angelica Salas is the co-Chair for the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

Joshua Hoyt is the executive director of NPNA.