Ken Cuccinelli Elevated To Second-Highest Position Atop Homeland Security

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Ken Cuccinelli was promoted to the second-highest leadership position within the Department of Homeland Security, establishing the immigration hardliner as a key player within the Trump administration.

Cuccinelli, the former acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, was named the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, according to a staff email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. His promotion coincided with Chad Wolf’s swearing-in as the latest acting secretary of DHS.

“I’d like to announce that Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli will serve as the senior official performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security,” Wolf wrote to staffers on Wednesday. “Ken Cuccinelli has been a constant and vocal advocate for the men and women of the Department who are protecting our borders and restoring integrity to our immigration system.”

Cuccinelli, the former Republican attorney general of Virginia, first joined the White House in June when President Donald Trump appointed him as the acting director United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks to the news media

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, speaks to the news media at the White House in Washington, U.S. September 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

As the leader of the agency tasked with managing the country’s legal immigration system, Cuccinelli spearheaded a number of initiatives that drew praise from immigration hardliners and ire from immigration-rights activists. Such policies included the “public charge” rule — a proposal to deny green cards to immigrants deemed liked to use government benefits, and most recently a proposal to charge a fee for asylum applications.

Since leading USCIS, Cuccinelli has frequently promoted the Trump administration’s immigration agenda and attacked liberal sanctuary policies on television and on social media — actions that appease the president. He had also gained notoriety for entering into heated exchanges with Democrats during congressional hearings. Now that he is acting deputy secretary of DHS, he is expected to become an even bigger face for the White House’s immigration agenda.

Cuccinelli was promoted the same day as Wolf, who will lead DHS in an acting capacity until a permanent replacement can be found.

“As I assume the role of Acting Secretary, I look forward to continuing to build on the successes that have been put in place. First and foremost, we must continue our outstanding work to address the national security and humanitarian crisis along the southwest border,” Wolf wrote to staff Wednesday. (RELATED: CBP Chief Says ‘No Immigration System In The World’ Can Handle What The US Experienced In 2019)

“But we must stay vigilant and steadfast in order to stay ahead of the threats and restore integrity to our immigration system,” the new DHS chief continued.

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