USCIS Director Faces DACA, Border Protection Issues

Deferred ActionWhen Leon Rodriguez took over as the new director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) earlier this summer, he understood the wide range of issues on which he will be required to lead the agency and to advise federal agency peers as well as his congressional bosses. Among these issues are Deferred Action for Childhood Immigrants (DACA) and border security. Although Rodriguez has thus only had a couple of months on the job, he offered comment on both topics during the congressional process that eventually approved him for his position at USCIS.

Following his confirmation hearing, senators followed up with Rodriguez by submitting written questions to him. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Orrin Hatch from Utah an Charles Grassley from Iowa each asked Rodriguez to provide insight into how his approach could be different than that of outgoing director Alejandro Mayorkas. On this, Rodriguez notes his limited vantage point on the agency from the standpoint of a nominee. However, he calls Mayorka an “exemplary public servant.” At the same time, however, “I am always prepared to take a fresh look at the agency’s policies and practices,” Rodriguez said in his written response.

During the confirmation hearing, Rodriguez gave senators only vague responses on DACA. The topic is particularly significant considering the first set of applicants for the two-year reprieve is set to begin the renewal process in September. In follow-up written questions, Sen. Grassley used the forum to try again for insight. “Please explain what actions you might take regarding the program, if confirmed?,” the senator said. On this, Rodriguez emphasizes his commitment to following and executing laws in the “most efficient and fair manner possible.” By the same token, it would be “impossible for me to predict what action I would take with respect to a policy like DACA prior to my confirmation,” Rodriguez responded.

Rodriguez uses the written format to emphasize his experience in combating fraud, organized crime and money laundering. By understanding large-scale corruption, Rodriguez writes, he’s in a good position to undertake the processes necessary to keep borders secure.

Sworn in at USCIS director on July 9, Rodriguez conducted his first naturalization ceremony on July 22, welcoming 73 new citizens to the country. With immigrant parents and grandparents, Rodriguez says the ceremony is especially significant. “I can’t imagine a more meaningful and moving experience,” he writes on the USCIS blog.