Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli

Senior Official, Department of Homeland Security

also Acting Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


One of the most outspoken anti-immigrant activists in the Trump administration, Ken Cuccinelli promoted the false narrative of immigrants as a burden, and worked to implement a rule that was an effective “wealth tax” for individuals seeking green cards. Cuccinelli sought to give preference to immigrants from European countries, during an interview where the awkward phrasing was described as a euphemism for white immigrants. Cuccinelli supported amending the Constitution to end birthright citizenship. And on his way out of office, Cuccinelli worked to cut a deal with the ICE union, as well as a number of state attorneys general, to prevent the Biden administration from being able to implement policy changes to the department.

Vilifying Immigrants 

  • At USCIS, Cuccinelli pushed through a range of policies making it more difficult for people to legally immigrate to the United States, including a rule implementing an effective “wealth test” for legal immigrants seeking green cards. [New York Times, 09/05/19; Rolling Stone, 08/14/19]
  • Cuccinelli advocated for removing the constitutional right to birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. [Axios, 09/12/19]
  • On his way out of office, Cuccinelli cut deals with the ICE union and a number of state attorneys general in an effort to prevent the Biden Administration from making immigration policy changes. [New York Magazine, 02/01/21; Buzzfeed, 2/1/21]

News Coverage and Headlines

  • “How many euphemisms can Donald Trump’s allies and members of his administration come up with for ‘white’ when trying to explain their preferences for what the population of the United States should look like? […] Now we have a new euphemism for ‘white,’ courtesy of acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli: ‘people coming from Europe.’ The discussion at hand, on Erin Burnett’s CNN show, was about who deserves to partake of social services and still hold a right to U.S. citizenship in the United States. Cuccinelli, clearly trying to avoid saying that only white people had such rights, landed on this awkward euphemism.” [Salon, 08/14/19]
  • “If the White House adviser Stephen Miller is the architect of Mr. Trump’s effort to restrict both legal and illegal immigration, Mr. Cuccinelli has emerged as its public face. He has aggressively pushed immigration policies with little concern for legal constraints. His tendency to make light of sensitive policies has incensed senior homeland security officials, including the acting secretary, Kevin K. McAleenan, and the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Matthew T. Albence, according to administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the rising tension among officials. Signature Cuccinelli initiatives include efforts to speed up asylum screenings, to make it harder for children of some active service members born abroad to obtain citizenship and to force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries (the administration recently announced that it would reconsider the last decision).” [The New York Times, 09/05/19]
  • HEADLINE: “Trump Official Reportedly Cut Deal to Keep ICE Policies Going Under Biden” [New York Magazine, 02/01/21]
  • HEADLINE: “Ken Cuccinelli Emerges as Public Face, and Irritant, of Homeland Security” [New York Times, 09/05/19]
  • HEADLINE: “A Court Ruled that Ken Cuccinelli’s Appointment at US Citizenship and Immigration Services Wasn’t Legal” [Vox, 03/02/20]
  • HEADLINE: “The New Stephen Miller” [The Atlantic, 08/14/19]