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New USCIS director blocks access to citizenship and asylum

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New USCIS director blocks access to citizenship and asylum

A week after the appointment of Ken Cuccinelli as Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) continues raising the alarm regarding the escalation of USCIS’ Second Wall attacks against citizenship as well as asylum and other forms of relief.

In his first week on the job, Cuccinelli has made it more difficult for the close to nine million immigrants who are eligible for citizenship to naturalize.

Change of direction

, he announced that USCIS would make applicants for citizenship and lawful permanent residence travel to other USCIS offices for their interviews, potentially requiring eligible immigrants to travel hundreds of miles, in a move that could deter them from applying or proceeding with their application.

While this was made under the pretense of decreasing processing times, USCIS provided no explanation for how this move would actually decrease the backlog of citizenship applications -with more than 731,000 currently pending. The agency also provided no details about how it would reduce processing times that average over 10 months nationally, are over 20 months in many USCIS offices and exceed 30 months in some extreme cases.

Barriers to refugees

The next day, on the eve of World Refugee Day, media reports show that he sent a warning letter to USCIS employees, including asylum officials tasked with screening asylum seekers’ initial claims, advising them that they had to do their “part” in limiting those who passed their initial legal screening and were allowed to request asylum in immigration court.

NPNA affirms that Cuccinelli, acting director or not, has no authority to rewrite immigration law that has been passed by Congress or disregard U.S. obligations under domestic and international law.

Questionable appointment

The same day, leading Congressional members sent a letter to the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security questioning the legality of Cuccinelli’s appointment. The congressmen suggested that the appointment was done in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, since the Trump administration knew that Cuccinelli–a controversial figure with a long history of xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and sexism–would never be confirmed by the Senate as director, as is required by the Constitution.

As the Trump administration continues to make it more difficult for eligible immigrants to naturalize, targets asylum seekers and refugees almost daily, and is now threatening to unleash a series of immigration raids and arrests nationwide, NPNA condemns the selection of Cuccinelli as a legally questionable move that escalates the Second Wall barriers and attacks against immigrant communities.

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