Update on Nomination of Lee Francis Cissna for Director of USCIS

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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On September 13, 2017, Fred Lucas of The Daily Signal posted an interesting article titled “Meet the Trump Nominee Key to Implementing Immigration Agenda” [link].1

The article provides updates on President Trump's nominee to be the next director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Lee Francis Cissna. We discussed the Cissna nomination in brief in our blog [see blog].

Lucas noted that Cissna has thus far faced little opposition in the Senate as the nominee for Director of USCIS. In June, he passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 17-2, setting his nomination up for an eventual vote before the full Senate. You may read Cissna's opening statement before the Judiciary Committee hearing here [PDF version].

Lee Francis Cissna for Director of USCIS

However, despite the ease with which Cissna passed through the Judiciary Committee, he has faced opposition from certain outside groups. For example, ProPublica, a left-leaning website involved in investigative journalism, ran an article reporting that Cissna had drafted memos critical of the USCIS under the Obama Administration while he was working for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.2 Lucas reports that other similarly left-leaning outlets have opposed Cissna on the basis of the ProPublica report, including UnidosUS.

Lucas noted that Senator Grassley himself speaks highly of Cissna. Notably, Senator Grassley was puzzled that outside groups have questioned Cissna's management experience, noting that he has over eight years of experience at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in immigration-related management roles.

However, despite the opposition to Cissna coming from certain left-wing groups, his path toward confirmation was ironically delayed by a Republican Senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. As Lucas explains, Senator Tillis placed a hold on Cissna's nomination in order to compel the Trump Administration to expedite its granting of additional H2B visas. Senator Tillis's spokesman informed The Daily Signal that the hold has been lifted, presumably again clearing Cissna's path toward confirmation.

The ProPublica report relied on by groups opposing Cissna expressed deep concern that Cissna had drafted memos for Senator Chuck Grassley that opposed certain initiatives of the Obama-era USCIS. However, it should come as no surprise that President Trump is nominating individuals who will work to implement the policies of his own administration rather than those of the previous administration. For reasons we discussed in our profile of Cissna when he was nominated, he certainly has extensive experience recommending him for the position of Director of USCIS [see blog]. That experience was likely behind the decision of seven of the nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of sending Cissna to the full Senate for a vote on his nomination. Although it is unclear when, it seems likely that Cissna will soon be the new Director of USCIS.

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  1. Lucas, Fred. “Meet the Trump Nominee Key to Implementing Immigration Agenda.” The Daily Signal. Sep. 13, 2017. Dailysignal.com
  2. Rochabrun, Marcelo. “Trump's Immigration Pick Attacked Obama Programs in Ghost-Written Senate Letters.” ProPublica. May 23, 2017. Propublica.org.