NCLR Opposes Nomination of Lee Francis Cissna for USCIS Director


WASHINGTON, DC—Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) expressed deep concern with the nomination of Lee Francis Cissna to lead the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Cissna’s nomination last month, and a vote is expected as early as this week.

“Mr. Cissna’s role in shaping immigration policies that hurt millions of American families, and his lack of management and oversight experience, make him eminently unqualified to lead USCIS,” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, Deputy Vice President, NCLR.

According to Cissna, he provided “technical assistance” to the Trump transition team—helping craft some of the extreme immigration policies currently unfolding. When specifically pressed about his role in attempting to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy—which has broad bipartisan support, has produced economic benefits for the country and provides eligible immigrant youth a process to regularize their status—he tried to hide behind executive privilege, which he seemed to believe covered his involvement with the transition team. When afforded an opportunity to clarify his stance for the congressional record, he again chose to hide behind a series of non-answers on this topic.

As documented in a report by ProPublica, immediately prior to his nomination, Cissna spent two years on loan from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s office, where he relentlessly attacked USCIS—the very agency he is nominated to lead—in ghost-written Senate letters. Among these, he attacked policies allowing eligible DREAMers the chance to obtain travel documents upon meeting certain criteria, and providing a safe alternative to a dangerous journey for many Central American children fleeing terrible violence and seeking asylum in the United States.

“USCIS has a role in carrying out America’s desire to see immigrants and refugees successfully integrate into our country. In fact, the American public is in a starkly different place than Mr. Cissna and this administration, as illustrated in a recent CNN poll. Mr. Cissna’s track record goes against the agency’s mission and, like other appointments made by this administration, including former FAIR Director Julie Kirchner to serve as USCIS ombudsman, is the exact opposite of what America needs,” said Martínez-De-Castro.

Given USCIS’s size and budget, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 expressly requires the Director of USCIS to have five years of management experience. Cissna’s record does not reflect that level of experience, and in a recent response to congressional questions for the record, he tried to use an alternative definition of “management official” to get around those qualifications.