Cuccinelli joining Trump administration in immigration role

Mike Lee, Ken Cuccinelli, Chuck Grassley

FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2018, file photo, from left, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, laugh before President Donald Trump arrived to announce his support for the first major rewrite of the nation’s criminal justice sentencing laws at White House in Washington. Cuccinelli will be joining the Trump administration. A White House official confirms Cuccinelli will be taking a position at the Homeland Security Department, focusing on immigration. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The former attorney general of Virginia, whose name had been tossed around for months for an immigration role, will be joining the Trump administration, according to a White House official.

Ken Cuccinelli will be taking a position within the Department of Homeland Security, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday ahead of an official announcement.

The Associated Press first reported last month Trump was considering bringing on Cuccinelli as an “immigration czar” to coordinate policy across federal agencies. But the official said Cuccinelli will not be assuming that role.

A second official said the job was still being defined and it wasn’t clear yet what Cuccinelli’s role would be within the department. The official was not authorized to speak about internal policy and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The hire comes as Trump is struggling with a migrant surge at the southern border that is straining federal resources. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has asked Congress for $4.5 billion more in supplemental funding.

Cuccinelli has in the past advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally, limiting in-state tuition at public universities only to those who are citizens or legal residents.

He didn’t immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

There was debate within the Trump administration over whether an immigration czar would be housed within the White House or within Homeland Security, a trickier positioning where the appointment could conflict with top leaders in Senate-confirmed positions.

While Homeland Security often plays a leading role when it comes to immigration policy and enforcement, the department is not in charge of officials at the departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense and Justice, which also play key roles.

But the plan was on hold amid a staff shake up that began with the surprise pulling of the nomination of Ron Vitiello to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and led to the resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the removal or resignation of other top department officials.

Trump named McAleenan, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as acting secretary.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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