Who will President Trump nominate to replace Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?And how will that decision affect the implementation of President Trump’s signature domestic policy issue?
John Kelly, Elaine Duke, Kristjen Nielsen, and Kevin McAleenan all served as DHS Secretary in either a confirmed or an acting capacity. Unfortunately, all four showed some degree of timidity in pursuing his broad immigration policy goals. Fortunately, the president has a great opportunity to nominate someone who will advance his immigration agenda fearlessly and effectively: current acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Ken Cuccinelli.
President Trump tapped Cuccinelli to lead USCIS in an acting capacity on June 10, 2019. In a few short months, he has emerged as the administration’s most effective reformer of immigration policy. Answering the president’s call for change, he helped implement a number of policies in line with the president’s immigration vision.
Cuccinelli specifically defended and implemented the new Public Charge rule that prevents the issuance of green cards to aliens who are likely to depend on government services. He understands the core issues at stake in combatting both illegal immigration and reducing overall legal immigration. Last week, he met with citizens alarmed at the growing number of alien H-1B workers replacing Americans in jobs across the STEM, business, and medical fields.
Some in the media and at the White House argue that Cuccinelli is not eligible to become the Secretary of DHS because of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. Under the FVRA, only three categories of people could assume the role: someone else at any agency who has already been confirmed by the Senate, someone who has been at DHS for at least 90 days in the year before the vacancy, or the first assistant at DHS.
Therefore Trump’s most likely path forward for Cuccinelli would be to nominate him formally and send his confirmation to the Republican-controlled Senate, which would likely result in a standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
During his campaign and throughout his time as president, Trump has promised to reduce illegal immigration and reform the current, broken legal immigration system. He deserves a DHS secretary that shares his vision. Alarmingly, there are rumors circulating that forces within the department, and even the White House, are pressuring him to nominate a career D.C. official.
High on the “swamp creatures’” list is Chad Wolf, a Washington insider who used to cash hefty paychecks lobbying to increase H-1B visas, which rob Americans of access to high-skilled jobs in favor of hiring and outsourcing cheaper foreign labor. Many of those being mentioned for role of DHS secretary are not visible or public defenders of the president’s policies, and nominating anyone who once lobbied to replace American citizen with alien labor is a slap in the face to those who supported the president’s “Buy American, Hire American” promise.
Immigration is Trump’s signature issue, and deserves someone in charge who is better than those trapped within the Washington bubble. All of the potential nominees are allies of Kirstjen Nielsen, who Trump often clashed with and ultimately dismissed. Truly, the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results.
If President Trump wants to end the timid, ineffective, and even outright rebellious DHS leadership that has plagued his presidency since day one, then Cuccinelli is the obvious choice to advance the administration’s goals. He already has a record of success, a great legal mind that can prevent and anticipate legal challenges to DHS action, and understands the need for immigration reform. DHS leadership needs a complete course correction, and Cuccinelli is best equipped to make lasting change as the head of the agency responsible for defending America’s borders, workers, and citizens from the pitfalls of illegal and unreformed immigration.