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Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief

Top Democrats question legal basis for appointing Cuccinelli as temporary immigration chief

The chairmen of the House Oversight and Reform, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees wrote a letter Tuesday expressing their “deep concern” regarding former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s appointment to serve as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Chairmen (D-Md.), (D-N.Y.) and (D-Miss.) said in the letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan that they believe Cuccinelli’s appointment “circumvents the Federal Vacancies Reform Act after Republican Senators told that the Senate would not confirm Mr. Cuccinelli as Director.”

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The Federal Vacancies Reform act stipulates that an acting official must be the agency’s top deputy, another Senate-confirmed official or a senior agency official who had been in their job for at least 90 days prior to a vacancy.

Nadler, Thompson and Cummings requested that the Department of Homeland Security provide “a detailed explanation of the legal basis for his appointment” as well as certain documents and a briefing on the matter. 

“It appears the Administration was aware that Mr. Cuccinelli could not be appointed Acting Director of USCIS consistent with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” they wrote. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and USCIS for comment.

At the time of Cuccinelli’s appointment earlier this month, A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said “Mr. Cuccinelli’s appointment is in accordance with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” but did not elaborate. 

Cuccinelli, who shares many of Trump’s views on immigration, is replacing Lee Francis Cissna, who left his role amid a DHS leadership shakeup reportedly orchestrated by White House policy adviser .

Senate Majority Leader (Ky.) and other GOP senators had earlier warned Trump against selecting Cuccinelli for DHS chief or other positions that require Senate confirmation.

The full text of the letter can be read below. 

 

—Updated at 2:26 p.m.

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