Ken Cuccinelli Gains in Race to Replace Departing DHS Chief

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump’s chief of staff told reporters that acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services  chief Ken Cuccinelli would make a good leader for the Department of Homeland Security, following the imminent departure of Kevin McAleenan.

Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney gave Cuccinelli the nod during an afternoon press conference when he was asked if he objected to Cuccinelli getting the job. “What is your objection to his possible appointment?” asked the reporter.

“I have none, and I think Ken would be good at the job,” Mulvaney replied, who has been a quiet and effective supporter of cheap-labor migration for many years. Under his tenure at the Office of Management and Budget, for example, Mulvaney’s deputies have preserved a policy that provides work permits to 100,000 spouses of H-1B visa-workers who are waiting for green cards.

Mulvaney’s public endorsement is a partial win for Cuccinelli, who is the top official at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.

Cuccinelli is reportedly competing for the job against Mark Morgan, who has worked as acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since July 5.

Both men have been strong and clear supporters of Trump’s effort to shift immigration policy in favor of ordinary Americans.

“The president has made no secret of the fact that he believes immigration, first and foremost, is set up to work for America — that means economically and for the people here,” Cuccinelli told reporters at an October 16 press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. But finding the right balance between helping Americans workers and American investors is a constant political dilemma, Cuccinelli said:

Is there some perfect [balanced] target point in every industry? Maybe there is, but we’re never going to be able to know it. So which side do you err on? And he has repeatedly emphasized how important it is to protect U.S. workers. Now’s he been clear with me, as well, and you all have heard him say it: he wants to see economic growth and dynamism. And that means, you know, growing companies needing to fill slots. So we’re just in a constant battle to balance those things.

On October 8, Morgan touted Trump’s broad strategy to shut down migration through Mexico. “This represents the fourth month in a row of a steady decline in apprehensions; this is an unprecedented achievement,” he said, adding”

I’ll give you an example. Just four short months ago, our daily apprehensions were close to 5,000 [migrants], and today I just looked at it on my screen before I left my office: It is below 1,700. We went from over 19,000 people in custody just four short months ago, [down] to less than 4,000 [in custody].

Cuccinelli is backed by immigraiton reform groups, according to a Politico report:

Ken Cuccinelli checks two boxes for President Trump — style and substance,” said RJ Hauman, government relations director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has been supportive of Cuccinelli in conversations with the White House. “He’ll successfully manage the sprawling bureaucracy at DHS, push back against activist judges and, most importantly, continue implementing President Trump’s immigration agenda.

Cuccinelli’s pro-reform views would doom any chance that he could win the Senate’s confirmation for the job of DHS Secretary. But Trump may try to find a legal workaround that would allow Cuccinelli to run the agency without getting Senate approval.

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