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Immigration Law

Expert: Grassley/Cissna Letters "Exhibit an Overall Anti-Immigrant View"

Marcelo Rochabrun, ProPublica, May 23, 2017

"Lee Francis Cissna, President Trump’s nominee to head the federal agency that handles applications for visas, refugee status and citizenship, has put little on the public record in his 20 years as a lawyer, government employee, diplomat and Capitol Hill aide.

But it turns out he has left many clues about how he could reverse Obama-era policies if he becomes director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a non-enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

On Wednesday, May 24, Cissna, 50, who has worked on immigration policy at Homeland Security for much of his career, is scheduled to appear at a confirmation hearing chaired by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley. From 2015 until earlier this year, Cissna worked for Grassley on immigration issues, having been detailed to his staff by Homeland Security. During that time, he remained on the agency’s payroll.

While there, he drafted dozens of letters under the senator’s name to Homeland Security officials, helping Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to intensify his oversight of immigration and creating a blueprint for dismantling President Obama’s initiatives, according to a dozen current and former agency and congressional staff members.

ProPublica reviewed more than 60 of the letters sent by Grassley during the time Cissna worked in his office.

... The Grassley letters written during Cissna’s tenure “exhibit an overall anti-immigrant view,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell who reviewed them at ProPublica’s request. “They seem to think that immigrants are only causing harm to the United States as opposed to giving it a more nuanced view of both benefits and the potential dangers of immigration.”

Cissna did not respond to requests for comment."

- Prof. Yale-Loehr