It remains unclear exactly what role he would play. Recruiting Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner and occasional cable news commentator, represents the increasing politicization of DHS as Trump seeks out tougher figures with a track record of embracing positions like his.
The Trump administration had toyed with the idea of creating an “immigration czar” position that would oversee the White House’s various efforts and coordinate between agencies. Among those considered for the role were former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Thomas Homan, who served as President Donald Trump’s first acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to The New York Times.
The Times was the first to report that Cuccinelli had been selected to join DHS, although it’s unclear what his title would be. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cuccinelli is known for trying to toughen laws regulating immigration and at times making bombastic statements about migrants.
He has tried to overturn birthright citizenship, disqualify unauthorized migrants who grew up in Virginia from receiving in-state tuition, allow businesses to sue other businesses for hiring unauthorized workers and keep migrants with legal status from collecting unemployment if they were fired for speaking languages other than English.
In televised comments in the past, Cuccinelli has compared migrant families to rats and repeatedly likened migration to the United States as an “invasion,” according to Think Progress. Cuccinelli is on record backing Trump’s national emergency declaration to swipe money from Defense Department accounts to expand the border wall, as well as the president’s decision to dispatch the U.S. military to the border.
Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with his administration’s inability to repel an influx of Central American migrant families and unaccompanied children, whose numbers have sharply increased in recent months. Families and children are able to seek various forms of humanitarian relief from deportation, like asylum. Authorities cannot swiftly remove them.
In an attempt to chart a different course, Trump cast out his homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, and his second pick for ICE director, Ronald Vitiello, last month. Both bureaucrats defended Trump’s moves on immigration, including the harshest ones like family separation.
But Trump appeared to want more effusive support and fiery rhetoric within the department, which Homan provided over the first year and a half of Trump’s administration.
Trump replaced Vitiello this month with Mark Morgan, an FBI veteran who headed Border Patrol for four months at the tail end of the Obama administration and leveraged that scant experience to become a cheerleader for Trump on immigration. He made nearly 100 media appearances over the five months before the president picked him to head up ICE ― mostly on Fox News.
Several conservative groups rallied around Cuccinelli after Nielsen’s dismissal last month left the Homeland Security spot vacant. Instead, Trump moved Kevin McAleenan, the former head of Customs and Border Protection, to head DHS.