U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna has resigned and will leave the agency June 1. The move is the latest in a purge of top Department of Homeland Security officials that began last month with the resignation of DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and withdrawal of the nomination of Ron Vitiello for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to take the agency in a “tougher direction.” An agency within DHS, USCIS oversees the legal immigration system and is responsible for adjudicating petitions and applications for employment- and family-based immigration benefits, including visa categories for high-skilled workers, green cards and naturalization, and also oversees refugee and asylum applications. Cissna, a career government official whose grasp of the intricacies of the immigration system enabled him to effectuate restrictive directives of the Trump administration, was reportedly pushed out by Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller for not implementing restrictive regulations and policies quickly enough.

Trump is reportedly eyeing Ken Cuccinelli to replace Cissna. A former Virginia attorney general turned combative TV commentator, Cuccinelli is an immigration hardliner but lacks Cissna’s policy experience, and the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents USCIS employees, has publicly opposed the nomination. Cuccinelli’s nomination has not been officially announced, and, if he is nominated, Senate confirmation is not assured, as some prominent Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have reportedly indicated they oppose the pick.

BAL Analysis: BAL is following these changes and will update clients as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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