Donald Trump’s Enemies, Friends Praise Embattled USCIS Chief

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Lee Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee's Border and Marine Security subcommittee on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. Republican House members are calling for reform to asylum processes. (Photo by Aaron …
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump are rushing to defend Trump’s deputy at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Francis Cissna.

Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted in support of Cissna, who is facing immediate firing as Trump cleans house at the Department of Homeland Security, according to a wide series of media reports.

Trump has already fired Kirstjen Nielsen and replaced her with Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency within DHS.

Many media reports say Trump also plans to fire the DHS’s acting deputy leader Claire Grady, and DHS general counsel John Mitnick.

Cissna is also on the chopping block, even though Trump’s critics say Cissna has done a very good job for Trump.

Cissna’s agency handles a vast amount of tasks — including curbing fraud by migrants, developing and implementing asylum reforms, overseeing the citizenship process, and tracking the visa worker programs, which keep a population of more than 1.5 million white-collar workers in U.S. jobs.

“Cissna is the best thing that has happened to that agency since was created,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Under President Barack Obama, “it was taken over by people who thought it was their job to rubber-stamp [work] visa applications, to [always] ‘Get to Yes’ .., [but now] Cissna is applying the law,” said Stein. 

Cissna is also backed by Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors Trump’s “Hire American” policy.

Moreover, Krikorian’s argument in favor of Cissna is backed by an advocate for cheap labor immigration, Alex Nowrasteh at the Cato Institute, who bitterly opposes Trump’s pro-American immigration policies.

Cissna’s implementation of Trump’s pro-American policies also got a backward endorsement from Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a pro-migration advocate at the immigration lawyers’ advocacy group, the Immigration Council. “None of this makes any sense,” Reichlin-Melnick wrote. “Cissna has been an extremely effective advocate for the administration’s restrictionist priorities, and his agency has little to do with the current border issues. Why fire him?”

Jonathan Blitzer, a progressive reporter at the New Yorker, also argued that Cissna was an effective ally for Trump:

Cissna’s endorsers also include Jessica Vaughan, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which backs Trump’s call for a reduced inflow of chain migrants:

Via Twitter, Krikorian argued that Cissna is vital for Trump’s”Hire American” policy, which has raised wages for Americans since 2017 — and promises to keep raising those wages before the 220 elections.

Firing Cissna “would not be ‘cleaning house’, it would be burning the house down. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater … There’s no one else who is committed to “Hire American” AND capable of implementing it,” he wrote.

Cissna is a former immigration lawyer who has worked for DHS and on the Hill. Cissna knows what regulations need to be changed before Trump’s “Hire American” policy can be fully implemented, and he also knows how to change those rules, a Hill source added.

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