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WASHINGTON -- An outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump's hard-line immigration policies has been named acting director of the agency that manages legal immigration, despite deep opposition from key Senate Republicans.

Ken Cuccinelli will oversee U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services starting Monday, Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced.

Citizenship and Immigration Services is the agency responsible for legal immigration, including benefits and visas. The position opened after Trump forced the resignation of Lee Francis Cissna, who Trump believed wasn't doing enough. Cissna said he worked "passionately."

The departure last month came amid a White House-orchestrated shakeup at Homeland Security, including the April resignation of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

There are more than a dozen vacancies of top leadership positions at the sprawling, 240,000-employee department. This comes as the Trump administration is struggling with a migrant surge at the southern border that is straining federal resources.

It's unclear if Trump will nominate Cuccinelli for the permanent position. That would require Senate confirmation, which could be difficult.

Cuccinelli is a former Virginia attorney general who ran for governor of Virginia but lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in 2013. It's not just Cuccinelli's views on immigration that would generate unease among senators. As the former head of the Senate Conservatives Fund, Cuccinelli has been highly critical of Senate GOP leadership, including once advocating for the removal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his entire leadership team. He also in the past has advocated for denying citizenship to the American-born children of parents living in the U.S. illegally.

Instead, the administration may simply opt to keep Cuccinelli in the acting position, working around rules governing vacancies.

Democrats also signaled strong opposition.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called Cuccinelli "an anti-immigrant fringe figure that has no business" leading a key component of the nation's immigration system.

A Section on 06/11/2019

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