As President Trump vents his anti-immigrant rage with a purge at the Department of Homeland Security that will remake the agency into something more to the liking of his white nationalist senior advisor Stephen Miller, a new report from Politico indicates that he may be looking to utilize the same strategy that he’s employed to undermine a multitude of other federal agencies — installing people who oppose the very mandate of the agency in question to lead it.
It’s a strategy that Trump has successfully employed to neuter the work of the Environmental Protection Agency by naming former energy industry lobbyists to top supervisory jobs, not to mention its effectiveness at undermining the public mission of the Department of Education by naming privatized school advocate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of that federal agency. The appointment of voter-fraud fraudster Kris Kobach to lead a panel to investigate election irregularities also comes to mind.
Now, according to knowledgeable White House insiders, Trump is deliberating over the nomination of the former head of a fervent anti-immigration group, The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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Julie Kirchner, the former executive director of FAIR, is currently under consideration for the role despite having led an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights watchdog group, has labeled as a hate group “because it promotes hatred of immigrants, especially non-white ones.”
The position that Kirchner is being vetted for currently belongs to Francis Cissna, an Obama administration holdover in the DHS who has been named as a target in Trump and Miller’s purges of people not deemed sufficiently “tough” on immigration, or, as translated from Trump-speak, agency personnel reluctant to break existing laws to the president’s illegal bidding.
According to Politico, no final decision on Kirchner’s nomination will be made until the new acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan officially takes over for the departing Kristjen Neilsen, a move complicated by existing succession rules that required the forced resignation of Neilsen’s statutory replacement before McAleenan can step in.
The other complicating factor is the support that the existing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services head, Cissna, has from his former boss Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who has praised Cissna for being one of the more effective DHS officials in implementing the president’s immigration agenda.
Grassley is joined by other GOP leaders in urging Trump to halt his planned DHS purges that they believe are creating a crisis within the massive agency.
While it’s not surprising that the nominal leader of a party dedicated to dismantling as much of the federal government as possible would put the foxes in charge of guarding the henhouse, it’s often difficult to determine which of the Trump administration’s actions stem from spiteful ideology and which are the results of sheer incompetence.
This pending nomination could be both at once.
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Original reporting by Ted Hesson, Anita Kumar, and Andrew Restuccia at Politico.