Illegal immigration continues to be among the top list of concerns for many Americans. Today, we hear from the head of the embattled agency in charge of the U.S. immigration system Ken Cuccinelli. He started as Acting Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in June. We asked where key immigration battles stand as we move into Campaign 2020.
At a hearing this week, Ken Cuccinelli was the target of a familiar attack by Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: You and Mr. Trump don't want anyone who looks differently or talks differently than Caucasian Americans to be allowed into this country.
Cuccinelli: That's false.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: I'm sorry. Please don't interrupt me. And I'd like the time added back.
Cuccinelli: That's defamatory.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Excuse me. There's nothing defamatory about it.
Cuccinelli says the fight to stop illegal immigration is a daily battle, politically and legally.
Sharyl: When President Trump has moved to try to change things about immigration policy in our system, he has met pretty much in each instance with some sort of challenge and legal challenge.
Cuccinelli: Yes. President Trump has suffered more national injunctions than all his predecessors combined. Combined. And it isn't because we're outside the law. We're winning these cases, but the courts are slowing him down.
Sharyl: There was some thought that when President Trump was elected that Congress was going to take steps and be able to effectively, with President Trump, stop the sanctuary city issue. So what happened to the idea that this could or would get taken care of with when we had a Republican Congress, by the way, and when President Trump got elected?
Cuccinelli: You've hit the one area that I can think of where we were set back by the courts, and it has sat there, and that is in trying to defund sanctuary cities of grant monies. You noted there was a Republican Congress for the first two years of the Administration. Paul Ryan was infamously pro-illegal immigrant and as a Speaker was stymied time and again good legislative opportunities. You can't just say Republican or Democrat. There's been a history of problems with the leadership of both parties over the years in attacking these problems.
As for President Trump’s “Wall” after being held up in court, it’s finally being expanded with 75 of new or improved fencing completed so far.
Sharyl: Any hope in getting Mexico to pay some of this bill?
Cuccinelli: You know I have no idea about that. I will say that one of the most amazing things that President Trump has accomplished this year is with Mexico. He’s told Mexico, "Look, the hammer's coming unless you start to meaningfully cooperate."
Sharyl: Didn't Mexico just turned back a large caravan?
Cuccinelli: A 2,000-person caravan just this past week. That's something that even just six months ago they weren't doing, and now they are.
Sharyl: It's sort of an open secret that there are people in the federal government who align themselves much more, I would say, with a progressive or liberal agenda on some of these issues than a conservative or President Trump agenda. Have you run into that?
Cuccinelli: I have encountered that. I will tell you that in my first 100 days here we disciplined 27 leakers. We have a handful more still in the pipeline for discipline. I have had confrontations unfortunately with employees instigated by them, not by me, on policy matters that our agency is engaged in, and I think those discussions, frankly, are more appropriate to the political arena than to an employee-management relationship.
Sharyl: There is what appears to be a significant chunk of the American public who thinks we ought to change the way we look at illegal immigration, and illegal immigrants change some of the policies, change some of our thinking process. Are they right, that maybe there is time for a new examination of the way we do things not to be stricter, but to actually perhaps loosen things up?
Cuccinelli: Certainly, the full spectrum of opinion is out there, and arguably the loudest has become the radical left, which is really been very militant in this space. I mean, they're attacking facilities that my employees work in. We've dealt with gunshots into our buildings. We've dealt with Molotov cocktails. This is terrorism being executed against the American government by people who disagree with enforcing the law. They want it to be moved radically to essentially erase our borders and have an open borders type policy, basically, make sanctuary city type policies that ruin public safety in those communities nationwide.
Sharyl: So, you don't think there's time to look at those views and perhaps shift where we are?
Cuccinelli: Well, not to those views. I mean, the President himself thinks we need to reform the immigration system to make the immigration system work as a reflection of our belief, meaning the president's one I share, that the immigration system here is for America and Americans first.
A new bill proposed in Congress would legalize up to 325,000 illegal immigrants working in US agriculture. It has bipartisan support.