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Judge says Ken Cuccinelli unlawfully appointed to lead US immigration agency

Posted March 1, 2020 2:51 p.m. EST

— A federal judge on Sunday ruled that it was unlawful to appoint Ken Cuccinelli to lead the agency responsible for processing US immigration requests.

The judge also invalidated a set of policies for the asylum seekers who are part of the case.

Advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit last year challenging the legitimacy of his role as acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking the court to set aside asylum policy changes issued shortly after he took office. Cuccinelli is currently serving as the acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees USCIS.

The lawsuit argued that Cuccinelli, who took over at the agency on June 10, 2019, did not satisfy the legal requirements to serve as the director under Federal Vacancies Reform Act ("FVRA") and the Constitution.

US District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss ruled that Cuccinelli was not lawfully appointed to serve as acting director and that, as a result, he lacked authority to issue two of the directives challenged in the lawsuit.

However, Moss wrote that he is "unconvinced" the court should extend this relief to other "asylum seekers who were processed under the defective directives."

"Those individuals are not parties to this case, nor is this case a class action," he wrote.

CNN has reached out to USCIS for comment.

Three weeks after assuming his new office, Cuccinelli issued a memorandum announcing a revised policy for scheduling credible-fear interviews, the first step in the asylum process, according to the court ruling. Under the revised policy, the agency reduced the time allotted for asylum seekers to consult with others prior to their interviews.

Under Cuccinelli, USCIS also prohibited granting asylum seekers extensions of time to prepare for their credible-fear interviews, "except in the most extraordinary of circumstances."

The asylum directives must be set aside, Moss ruled. While the court set aside the directives related to the reducing in consulting time and prohibitions on extensions, the judge found that the court did not have jurisdiction on a challenge to limiting in-person orientation in a Texas immigration detention facility.

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