- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Trump administration made a rare admission of a mistake Wednesday as immigration chief Ken Cuccinelli said he bungled an August policy rollout that told some illegal immigrants caring for sick children that they had a month to leave the county or else face deportation.

But that wasn’t good enough for his Democratic critics on Capitol Hill, one of whom called him a white supremacist for the way he’s been running U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Mr. Cuccinelli angrily denounced the attempt by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, to besmirch him, and said it was up to Congress to change the laws. Until then, he said, he’s enforcing them as he thinks they should be interpreted.

“If you cared enough to pass a law, we’d enforce it,” Mr. Cuccinelli, a potential next pick as acting Homeland Security secretary, told the House Oversight Committee.

He appeared alongside Matt Albence, acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at a hearing called to explore the August decision by USCIS to curtail use of “deferred action” — an official delay of deportation — in non-military cases.

That move enraged immigrant-rights activists who called it cruel. They said hundreds of those covered by deferred action are people caring for ailing relatives, often children, who face a choice of either remaining in defiance of the law, leaving their children here while they return home, or else bringing the children back too — a decision that could sometimes doom the child.

Mr. Cuccinelli said deferred action is an enforcement decision, and his agency isn’t supposed to be doing that kind of enforcement. He said that was better left to ICE.

But he acknowledged a “mistake” in applying the August changes retroactively to hundreds of applications already filed, saying if he had a do-over he would only have applied it prospectively.

It’s moot now. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan ordered a full restart of the deferred action policy, including in tough medical cases.

But Democrats on Capitol Hill say there’s still too much confusion about what’s happening, and what standards USCIS is using. They feared Mr. Cuccinelli’s agency may make a back-door attempt to follow through on his plans.

“We want to make sure that what was going to take place on a sweeping and categorical level is not taking place at a less visible and ad hoc level,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who served as chairman for Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing.

Mr. Cuccinelli said the problem is there isn’t any law or regulation laying out the deferred action policy, so it’s difficult to provide more concrete details on what is, at its core, a case-by-case decision about whether or not to pursue deportation.

“What we’re talking about today is not based on law, is not based on regulation. It’s much like the executive trying to create law,” he said.

Mr. Albence, meanwhile, said his agency had nothing to do with this summer’s deferred action move.

At one point Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, demanded Mr. Cuccinelli turn and look at a man sitting in the audience whose daughter is undergoing lifesaving treatment in Seattle.

“Julia’s doctors say if she leaves this country and goes back to her home country, she will die,” the congresswoman said.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz was more pointed still.

“You want to block all immigration and make life harder for immigrants and you have demonstrated you will pursue this heinous white supremacist ideology at all costs,” she told Mr. Cuccinelli.

Mr. Cuccinelli fervently denied the accusation — “I am not a white supremacist, as you alluded,” he said — but Ms. Wasserman Schultz retorted that he had “white supremacist followers.”

Then, using her privilege as the questioner, she shut down his attempts to respond.

“The time is not yours,” she said. “Thank you, I yield back the time, and the witness does not have the floor.”

What seemed to irk Ms. Wasserman Schultz was Mr. Cuccinelli’s issuance of a new policy earlier this year potentially denying the chance at a path to citizenship for migrants who have made widespread use of some welfare programs.

A USCIS official later told The Washington Times that if Ms. Wasserman Schultz and other members of Congress don’t like the laws USCIS is carrying out, they can write new ones.

“When some in Congress refuse to debate policy on the merits, they instead resort to baseless, slanderous attacks,” the official said.

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