The Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services resigned from his post Friday at President Donald Trump’s request, according to his resignation letter.
Francis Cissna will be replaced by former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, according to a person familiar with the situation.
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Cissna emphasized that during his tenure, he was committed to enforcing the rule of law and laying the groundwork for effective immigration reform.
“We are the government servants charged with lawfully, efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits, while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our nation’s values,” Cissna wrote. “I have always been and will remain keenly aware of these charges and your diligence in fulfilling our mission.”
Cissna’s ouster has been in the works for weeks as Trump has sought to shake up his immigration officials. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Ronald Vitiello, who was acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also left their posts last month. Republican lawmakers had urged the president to keep Cissna on board, but White House adviser Stephen Miller had sought to boot him weeks ago.
Rumors of Cuccinelli’s selection to a top immigration post raised eyebrows earlier this week. Cuccinelli led the charge among the Republican National Convention to back Sen. Ted Cruz’s nomination in 2016. But members of Trump’s inner circle told POLITICO earlier this week that the president had gotten over their bitter past and has come to admire Cuccinelli.
USCIS oversees legal immigration and has traditionally defended it. But under the Trump administration and Cissna’s leadership, the agency has been a key element in the hardline crackdown on immigration. Cissna has overseen the dramatic shrinking of the country’s refugee program, the creation of a “denaturalization task force” charged with stripping citizenship from those who committed fraud and a change in policy to make it easier for visas to be denied.
Cissna told POLITICO Magazine in September that he was not driven by anti-immigrant sentiment but rather a “strong commitment to the law, and to the rule of law.”