On Thursday morning’s The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy was live from radio row in Washington, D.C. and welcomed Ken Cuccinelli who is currently working in the Trump administration as acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Approaching the end of the third segment, Cuccinelli explained how the supreme court stepped in to stop the injunction by the Ninth Circuit court in California regarding his new asylum regulation which limits the ability for immigrants to apply for asylum if they haven’t already applied in their country adding that in his opinion, the supreme court has grown tired of the lawlessness and the image it’s reflecting upon the courts.
Leahy: And it’s a great pleasure to have our good friend Ken Cuccinelli Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Welcome, Ken.
Cuccinelli: Good to be with you again.
Leahy: I’ve followed your career with great interest. Written about you extensively at Breitbart when you ran for Governor of Virginia in 2013. You were a terrific attorney general in Virginia. Narrowly lost in 2013 and had been involved in a number of conservative causes. You were appointed the acting director of the US citizenship and immigration services in June. It’s been an eventful several months. Tell us about that.
Cuccinelli: (Chuckles) Boredom has not been a problem. When you work for President Trump boredom is not a problem. Especially in the immigration space. We’ve been very aggressively over the course of the summer. The whole immigration team and the department of homeland security.
We’ve been putting in place new rules and regulations within the boundaries of the law that have really shrunk the crisis. We’re still facing a crisis on our southern border. It’s important that people realize we’re not out of it. But we have gone to 144,000 apprehensions in May to 64,000 in August.
A reduction in well over half including about a 2/3 reduction in families and children who are the hardest to deal with coming over the border. Our goal is to keep driving that down. Catch and release is ending so these people can’t rush the border.
Leahy: So tell us about how that came about. Describe catch and release. What was it?
Cuccinelli: Catch and release is a situation where Congress has not allocated adequate resources to detain, which is what you’re supposed to do. To detain people who come over the border illegally. They’re supposed to be in detention all the way through their court processes.
Well, Congress hasn’t given us what we need to do that. They haven’t given ICE that’s responsible for both detention and removal, sufficient beds. Maybe 50 plus thousand of them. And the customs border protection, the border patrol they’re at the border as their names suggest.
And their detention is intended to be literally very short term. Not like the jails basically that ICE has. Those facilities were just swamped. You saw the pictures in the summer. There was overcrowding. What drove us all crazy especially the border control was congressional reps would come down there and complain about the overcrowding and it’s their fault!
Leahy: It’s their fault! They wouldn’t fund it. It’s crazy.
Cuccinelli: Not only did they not fund it but also they won’t fix the laws that are attracting people to come to our border illegally. So the president has been throwing every domestic and international tool he can at this problem and look, it’s working.
He’s being aggressive in ways that none of his predecessors Republican or Democrat have been willing to do with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala. And it’s working. And interestingly as tough as he’s been with them, what it’s producing some of the best working relationships we’ve ever had.
Leahy: And why is that?
Cuccinelli: Well, because they have an interest in making this relationship work. It starts with economics. You remember the tariff fight with Mexico early in the year. And Republicans and Democrats were gnashing their teeth and running their garments with the president threatening tariffs on Mexico and how terrible that would be.
But look, the President understands something that for some reason most people in Washington don’t. In every single one of those relationships, we are more important to them then they are to us. And that is leverage. That is leverage and economic negotiation. If you’re sitting in Mexico and you’re watching President actually imposed tariffs on China, you know he’s not kidding. He’s not threatening.
Which has been the pattern of US Presidents. Again Republicans and Democrats in the past. Well, this President doesn’t rattle the sword he uses it. And again, back to Reagan, peace through strength doesn’t just apply to the military. It applies in the economic realm and it applies in every realm.
When they know you’ll exercise the power you have they’re responsive to the existence of that power. And we’re getting more cooperation from Mexico today. They have over 45,000 people waiting in Mexico for their US court hearings. That’s an enormous expansion of our holding capacity. And particularly of families. So families aren’t getting released like they used to.
They’re being made to wait in Mexico and that has an enormous effect on our ability to both keep control of our asylum system, our immigration system but also deters people from coming to the border in the first place.
Leahy: During your ten years as acting director at the United States citizenship and immigration services. That’s the part of the government that’s in charge of our systems of legal immigration.
Cuccinelli: Correct. Including asylum.
Leahy: The President has ha a great supreme court victory on the asylum issue. Tell us about that.
Cuccinelli: So in July, my agency put out a very tough rule that said there will be asylum on the southern border for people who cross the southern border unless they have sought asylum and been rejected in a country they came through first. So obviously Mexicans don’t come through another country so it doesn’t apply to them.
But applies to everybody else. And people from all over the world, not just Central America are coming up through Mexico. They’re coming from Africa, and Asia, and so forth. And asylum is about safety. Not convenience or preference or economic opportunity. It’s about safety. That’s what asylum is about.
And America has been historically the most generous nation in the world including in the humanitarian relief we offer in our immigration system. But we have so many people abusing that system today that legitimately persecuted people, let me rephrase that.
People who have legitimate claims of prosecution and thus would qualify as refugees or for asylum are clogged up in the system by the vast majority of people who are just swarming our southern border trying to overwhelm our system by claiming asylum.
So we need to clean that system out. That is the responsibility of my agency. But candidly we’re overwhelmed. We have over 335,000 asylum cases in the backlog. The supreme court is helping us clear this.
Leahy: So you implemented a rule. And now you had the legal authority to implement that rule.
Cuccinelli: To do this. Yes. And that got enjoined by the ninth circuit.
Leahy: In California.
Cuccinelli: In California. Dude. Yeah. (Leahy laughs)
Leahy: Now that’s by the way, as an aside that’s traditionally been the most liberal left-wing court.
Cuccinelli: Yes. It’s improving.
Leahy: It’s improving because of the President’s appointments.
Cuccinelli: Yes it is. But they still have the most wildly activists court judges in the whole country.
Leahy: So your rule limiting that ability to apply for asylum if you haven’t applied in a country you’ve come through. A legally authorized rule.
Leahy: So you do that legally…
Leahy: And then it’s challenged.
Cuccinelli: It’s blocked in the Ninth Circuit.
Leahy: Ninth Circuit says you can’t. That rule.
Cuccinelli: That’s right. And two weeks ago the supreme court stepped in at the middle of the case, not the end of the case and undid the injunction blocking the rule. Very unusual behavior. Very unusual.
And not only does it allow us to implement the rule but it also, I hope will serve as a shot across the bow to appellate courts all over the country that have been perfectly happy to lay these injunctions on this President.
He has suffered more national injunctions than any President in history. The activism has been very much targeting him and stalling.
Leahy: I miss the part of the constitution that said a federal district judge in one obscure area can issue.
Cuccinelli: Not if you’re on the border by the way.
Leahy: Can issue a national injunction.
Cuccinelli: Unless you count the Pacific ocean.
Leahy: Why do you think that the supreme court reached down?
Cuccinelli: Because I think they’re sick of the behavior. It isn’t just this case. I think they’re genuinely upset that look, the courts are being brought into disrepute. They are violating the law.
Doesn’t it sound weird? The courts are violating the law. And the separation of powers. And for somebody like Chief Justice Roberts who we know is so sensitive to the people’s opinion of the court.
Cuccinelli: You know that’a big deal. And the court has been frankly sullying itself as a political activist during the course of this President’s administration. And as these cases go forward, he wins them. Because we are operating firmly within the law. Firmly within the law.
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