Last month, Donald Trump announced his nomination of Lee Francis Cissna, current director of immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Ahead of today’s confirmation hearing, investigative news outlet ProPublica released letters written by Cissna that demonstrate his intent to implement the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda by dismantling critical immigration programs.
In response, Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition released the following statement:
"The President's pick to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Lee Frances Cissna, has a clear anti-immigrant record that senselessly undermines the economic and social interests of this country. Americans will not be richer or safer if we stifle the labor force and terrorize people with the constant threat of deportation. This is not who we are as a nation, and we will continue to fight back against the Trump administration's dangerous and self-defeating policy agenda."
USCIS is the federal agency that manages applications for visas, refugee status, and citizenship. If confirmed, Cissna would be responsible for implementing the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda in this area.
ProPublica found that from 2015 until earlier this year, Cissna worked for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley on immigration issues, and drafted letters under the Senator’s name to Homeland Security officials in an effort to dismantle current immigration policies.
Among the policies they criticized were:
- An emergency program for Central American children to reunite with parents in the U.S. The system “unquestionably circumvents the refugee program established by Congress,” according to a November 2015 letter.
- The system for granting asylum to people claiming persecution in their home countries. A November 2016 letter claimed thousands of immigrants were “amassing” in Mexican border cities with the intention of “asserting dubious claims of asylum, which will practically guarantee their entry.”
- Giving so-called “Dreamers” - undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children - the chance to obtain travel documents on top of work permits. This program would “open the door to undocumented immigrants to gain U.S. citizenship,” a March 2016 letter said.
- A program allowing undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime to stay in the U.S. even if there are no visa slots available. A December 2016 letter said the policy is “being exploited by those wishing to defraud the system and avoid deportation.”
The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees. The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.