Politics

White House Reportedly Mulling Immigration Hardliner For Top DHS Position

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

President Donald Trump is reportedly not done shaking up immigration leadership in his administration, and is mulling whether to replace the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Lee Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), might be dismissed from his position by the end of this week, according to sources who spoke with Politico. In his place, the White House might be considering Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

A nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., FAIR advocates for the reduction of both legal and illegal immigration. Kirchner worked with the group from 2005 to 2015, and served as its executive director from 2007 to 2015. She later got involved with the Trump administration, and was appointed as USCIS ombudsman in May 2017.

Along with the agency’s top post, Kirchner has also been considered for USCIS deputy director.

“FAIR has no information regarding any positions to which Julie Kirchner may be appointed by President Trump,” FAIR president Dan Stein said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation on Wednesday. “But we can unequivocally vouch for her as one of the most professional, competent, circumspect, deliberative and fair-minded people we have ever known. All who know her would certainly agree.”

Kirchner’s possible ascension in USCIS — an agency that handles the country’s immigration and naturalization services — is seen as part of Trump’s larger push to move “in a tougher direction” on immigration.

The president, frustrated over the worsening immigration crisis, pulled acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Ron Vitiello’s nomination to lead the agency April 4, and he accepted Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation a few days later. Claire Grady, the acting deputy secretary for Homeland Security, handed in her resignation Tuesday.

U.S. President Trump participates in briefing at U.S. Border Patrol Calexico Station in Calexico, California

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion on immigration and border security at the U.S. Border Patrol Calexico Station before visiting the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico, California, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

One Republican lawmaker, concerned over the major staff shakeups at the Department of Homeland Security, has sought to protect Cissna’s job.

“The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign, throughout his two and a half years of presidency,” Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday. “He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal.” (RELATED: Pentagon Doles Out Nearly $1 Billion In Border Wall Spending Contracts)

Grassley, who formerly employed Cissna as a staffer, implored Trump to end his purge.

The staff shakeup comes as apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have reached record highs. Border Patrol agents apprehended or turned back a total of 103,492 migrants who attempted to reach the U.S. border in March, marking the highest month of apprehension in over a decade.

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