The White House appears to be eyeing the former head of a well-known anti-immigration group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, Julie Kirchner, to take the helm of US Citizenship & Immigration Services, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with administering immigration and naturalization benefits. Kirchner, who joined the administration shortly after the president took office, currently serves as USCIS Ombudsman, the office tasked with resolving complex individual case issues, as well as providing recommendations for improvement in the administration of overall case processing.
According to recent media reports, Kirchner may be appointed to replace Francis Cissna, the current Director of USCIS. Cissna, who has been on board as Director since October 2017 and a DHS employee for nearly 14 years, served on detail to the staff of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for two years. Grassley has been quoted as supporting Cissna’s continuation in the job.
If Cissna is ousted, he would become the latest in a series of announced departures at DHS. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, and acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Claire Grady have already announced their exits. The administration has also withdrawn the nomination of Ron Vitiello to lead US Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
The White House official has not confirmed a final decision on Cissna’s replacement, which will require Senate approval. According to Politico, a decision by the administration is likely to be delayed until Kevin McAleenan steps in as acting DHS secretary, as McAleenan is expected to weigh in on high-level personnel moves in the department.