Trump Taps Immigration Policy Wonk to Head USCIS

As President Trump continues filling out his administration’s cabinet picks for top posts, Lee Frank Cissna, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration policy veteran, is nominated to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.)  Cissna’s nomination, which is subject to U.S. Senate confirmation, would place him in the agency’s director capacity.

In his role at DHS, according to a White House statement, Cissna “develops and coordinates Departmental policy, with particular emphasis on temporary worker, immigrant, and other immigration benefits programs.”

Cissna’s nomination coordinates with recent USCIS news announcing a hardline approach to H-1B visa employer fraud as well as a planned assessment of the H-1B system as a whole. The moves, according to one publication, put “information technology firms in the crosshairs of targeted site visits by the government.”

High-tech companies lobby heavily for H-1B visas, arguing the organizational innovation their firms need can only be provided by the highly-skilled workers of the ilk that come to the United States under the program.

Prior to his role at DHS, Cissna served as Office of the Chief Counsel at USCIS. Cissna has also worked as a private-practice immigration and international trade attorney as well as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in both Haiti and in Sweden.

Up to now, USCIS hasn’t participated to any great extent in immigration policy discussions under President Trump, though the administration has moved swiftly on the issue. The Trump administration has already moved forward with two executive orders around foreign nations from certain Middle East and North Africa countries.

If confirmed, Cissna will replace James McCament. McCament currently serves as Acting Director of USCIS. Tracy Renaud is second-in-command at the agency in the role of acting deputy director.

Other immigration-related nominations named by President Trump include Kevin McAleenan as commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB), from his current unconfirmed role as acting commissioner. Previously McAleenan served as CPB deputy commissioner and also functions as CBP chief operating officer.

Thomas Homan is another immigration official named by the Trump administration. Homan’s appointment is as acting director of U.S. Customs Enforcement (ICE.) Homan oversaw the deportation of more than 900,000 immigrants under President Obama.