Judge rules Cuccinelli unlawfully appointed to run immigration agency

A federal judge ruled that Ken Cuccinelli, who previously headed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was unlawfully appointed to run the agency.

Washington, D.C., District Judge Randolph Moss, an Obama appointee, decided the Trump administration violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) when Cuccinelli, the current deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was appointed to lead USCIS in June 2019. 

He also ruled that Cuccinelli’s policy that accelerated screenings for immigrants seeking asylum should be eliminated, according to the ruling obtained by The Hill.  

ADVERTISEMENT

The FVRA regulates who the president can put in certain Cabinet and agency roles. President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE’s administration created Cuccinelli’s first title, principal deputy director, in order for him to qualify to lead the agency in an interim status.

The judge ruled this title creation did not qualify him for the position. 

“Cuccinelli may have the title of Principal Deputy Director, and the Department of Homeland Security’s order of succession may designate the office of the Principal Deputy Director as the first assistant’ to the Director,” he wrote. “But labels — without any substance — cannot satisfy the FVRA’s default rule under any plausible reading of the statute.”

Cuccinelli directed an expedited process for reviewing asylum-seeker applications in July. Officials previously had to wait 48 hours before an asylum-seeker’s interview and hearing, but Cuccinelli sped up the process to be one day.

His policy required immigrants to prove they would face persecution if they returned to their home countries.

Cuccinelli became the deputy secretary of the department in November but is still named as the senior official who runs USCIS. But acting DHS Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfCongress needs to reform the Vacancies Act to keep the business of government on stable footing Trump, on trip with GOP, slams 'sick' state of US-Mexico border Texas Democrats representing border districts slam Trump visit MORE chose Joseph Edlow to run USCIS’s day-to-day operations last week.

ADVERTISEMENT

A DHS spokesperson said in a statement, "We obviously disagree with the court’s decision and will be looking closely at the decision." 

USCIS did not immediately return a request for comment.

Updated Monday at 9:14 a.m.