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Lawsuits & Litigation

Lawsuit Says USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli Holds His Post Illegally

— September 19, 2019

The suit says Cuccinelli isn’t Senate-confirmed and didn’t come from a Senate-confirmed position–and therefore lacks the legal right to serve as USCIS’ executive.

A coalition of immigration advocacy groups are suing the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its acting director, Ken Cuccinelli.

According to CNN, the lawsuit questions whether Cuccinelli has the authority to issue “asylum directives” at the agency. In fact, the complaint accuses of Cuccinelli of lacking the legal standing to even serve as acting director. The suit cites the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and the U.S. Constitution to bolster its argument.

CNN notes that the case was filed by Democracy Forward and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., on behalf of seven asylum-seekers and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

Together, they’re asking the courts to block Cuccinelli’s wide-ranging directives on immigration, many of which restrict the right of asylum-seekers to apply for protection within the United States.

“These unlawful directives issued by an unlawfully appointed official punish asylum seekers fleeing persecution and undermine American values,” Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy said in a statement.

One of Cuccinelli’s revisions, says CNN, involves the amount of time asylum-seekers are given to prepare for interviews. In the past, refugees were usually given “48 hours from the time they received notice of their interview or from the time of arrival.” But Cuccinelli has reduced that to a “full calendar day.”

The USCIS justifies its policy revision as efficacy.

A 2014 image of Donald Trump. President Trump has continued to make immigration a central platform for his presidency. He’s often accused asylum-seekers of exploiting ‘loopholes’ in extant immigration law to game their way into the United States. Image from Flickr via Wikimedia Commons/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“As part of our efforts to make the expedited removal process more efficient and effective, USCIS is modifying the consultation period to better align with today’s operational realities,” USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins said, speaking back when the change was first announced.

However, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), argues that interview protocol shouldn’t be sacrificed to ensure faster deportations.

“This is an hour of any asylum-seeker’s life that will change their life forever,” CLINIC’s federal litigation attorney, Bradley Jenkins, told Catholic News Service. “If they fail it, they immediately get deported.”

CLINIC says it also poses obstacles for disabled immigrants, potentially violating the federal Rehabilitation Act.

“All we’re asking for is what the law allows,” Jenkins said. “The reason they want to do it is they want to deport people quickly and without adequate process.”

Aside from losing an opportunity to prepare for their interviews, cutting the window from 48 hours to a calendar day would effectively end legal orientations for asylum-seekers, too.

“The move to cut lawyers out of the process really abandons all pretense of having a protection-oriented system as opposed to having a deportation-oriented system,” Jenkins added.

Jenkins also explained his belief that Cuccinelli’s position lacks legal credence.

“Acting Director Cuccinelli is not currently confirmed by the Senate and he didn’t come from a Senate-confirmed position,” Jenkins said. “They just put him there without justification.”


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Lawsuit filed over asylum directives

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