People For the American Way

Ken Cuccinelli Hates Immigrants: 11 Examples Over the Years

News and Analysis
Ken Cuccinelli Hates Immigrants: 11 Examples Over the Years
Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Ken Cuccinelli has not come right out and told us that he hates immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, and people who want reproductive freedom, but his years as an elected official in Virginia—first as a state senator and then as attorney general—clearly demonstrate his loathing.

After Trump announced last month that he was appointing Cuccinelli as acting head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—the DHS agency that oversees immigration, namely processing applications for asylum, work visas, DACA, and citizenship—Republicans widely and quickly shared that he didn’t have the votes to be confirmed. The GOP senators were rejecting him unfortunately not because of his anti-immigrant history, but because he campaigned against some of them, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.Ky.

So Trump installed Cuccinelli as the acting director of USCIS, adding the job to a growing list of positions that Trump is filling by bypassing Senate confirmation and flouting constitutional norms. It’s clear why Trump and Steven Miller are bullish about putting Cuccinelli at the top of USCIS. The agency wields enormous power over the lives of immigrants in this country, and his anti-immigrant record is as vile and vicious as theirs. Here are 11 examples of his detestable rhetoric from the last 10+ years.

  1. 2007: He criticized an immigration reform plan supported by the Bush administration and declared that Bush no longer functioned as the “head of the Republican party.” The bill, which he claimed was “something like amnesty,” failed on the cloture motion, 53-46.
  2. 2006 and 2007: He twice opposed bipartisan bills that would allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Virginia public colleges and universities as long as they meet a number of criteria.
  3. 2008: While in the state Senate, Cuccinelli introduced a resolution urging Congress to call a constitutional convention to rescind the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship because “the only manner to prevent children of illegal immigrants from automatically becoming U.S. citizens is to amend the Fourteenth Amendment.”
  4. 2008: Cuccinelli introduced a bill charging employees with “misconduct” because of their “inability or refusal to speak English at the workplace” and disqualifying them from receiving unemployment benefits.
  5. 2010: Cuccinelli signed on to an amicus brief defending Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant SB 1070 and said that he was “stunned that the government has sued Arizona.” The law allowed police officers to question the immigration status of any person based on “reasonable suspicion” that they were in the country illegally.
  6. 2010: Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion in Virginia authorizing police officers statewide to check the immigration status of any person at any time for any reason and arrest people they suspect of criminal violations of immigration law, effectively making local Virginia police an arm of ICE.
  7. 2012: In a radio interview, Cuccinelli compared the deportation of undocumented immigrants to pest control, saying “it is worse than our immigration policy — you can’t break up rat families. Or raccoons and all the rest and you can’t even kill them.”
  8. 2013: While Cuccinelli was running for Virginia attorney general, he listed on his website the endorsement of “Gun Owners of America” – he apparently had no issue being associated with an organization headed by a man who claimed earlier that year that immigration reform would bring in “illiterate” and “dependent” immigrants who would be “sitting around drawing welfare and voting Democrat.”
  9. 2014: Cuccinelli wrote a Facebook post in support of then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s questionable decision to send the Texas National Guard to the southern border to confront Central American child migrants. “The border states that are being directly invaded by illegal immigrants – Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico – may constitutionally deal with the invasion themselves, at least as it relates to attempting to stop the flow across their own borders,” Cuccinelli wrote at the time. “And there is nothing President Obama or those in Washington can do to stop any of these states, if they are determined to act.”
  10. 2015: As the head of the Senate Conservatives Fund, Cuccinelli told talk show host Steve Deace that America is being “invaded” by immigrants “one person at a time” – language that Trump has used to justify the detention of refugees and families in inhumane conditions at the border.
  11. 2017: Cuccinelli’s Senate Conservatives Fund gave serious financial support to the Senate campaign of Roy Moore in Alabama. Moore had called for the use of military to patrol the borders, opposed legal status for people covered under DACA (“’Dreamer’ is wrong,” he said during a GOP primary runoff debate), and supported a bill that would cut the number of legal immigrants entering the United States in half by 2027. Even as Moore’s campaign became mired in credible accusations of sexual assault against girls, Cuccinelli appeared to stand by the Moore campaign – blaming his loss to Democrat Doug Jones on Mitch McConnell.


anti-immigrant, DHS, Ken Cuccinelli