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Ken Cuccinelli, an immigration hard-liner, tapped for No. 2 job at Homeland Security

WASHINGTON -- Shortly after being sworn in as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf -- who the Senate confirmed as the agency's policy undersecretary just hours earlier -- conducted his first order of business.

He moved Ken Cuccinelli, a favorite of immigration hard-liners, into the No. 2 position.

In an email to employees Wednesday, Wolf announced that Cuccinelli, who for the past five months has been acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the DHS agency that adjudicates immigration benefits, would now serve as the acting deputy secretary.

The move did not sit well with lawmakers.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who heads the Homeland Security Committee, called the move "legally questionable."


"It seems that President (Donald) Trump just couldn't fight the urge to play to his base by elevating Ken Cuccinelli to another senior leadership position at DHS that he is wholly unqualified for. Mr. Cuccinelli is nothing more than an anti-immigrant fringe figure and Trump sycophant," he said in a statement.

"The fact that the President installed someone who is unable to be confirmed by the Senate for any position and cannot legally serve as Acting Secretary shows his reckless regard for democratic norms and the law. This is clearly a legally questionable appointment."

A spokesperson for the top Republican on the committee, Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., told CQ Roll Call via email that he "has consistently said that it's important for DHS to have long-term, Senate-confirmed leadership."

In his email to DHS employees, Wolf described his deputy as "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."


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