Monday, October 14, 2019

Top asylum official reassigned for being “source of frustration” to the Trump administration

The top asylum official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reportedly been reassigned to a service center in Virginia — an apparent demotion lambasted by some immigration officials as “just another attack” by the Trump administration on the asylum system.

John Lafferty, who led the USCIS asylum division for six years, was “pushed out” this week by Ken Cuccinelli, the agency’s hard-line acting director, according to BuzzFeed, which first reported the news. The asylum division under Lafferty had long been a “source of frustration” to the Trump administration, particularly senior White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Miller has been pushing a hard-line immigration agenda since the early days of the Trump campaign. He’s sought to limit the number of asylum-seekers allowed into the U.S., allegedly even telling former Trump aide Cliff Sims that he’d “be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America’s soil.”

Lafferty is a “pro-asylum” official who was well-liked in his division, a USCIS officer told the Post. In July, BuzzFeed reported that Lafferty had penned a memo to staffers critical of a fast-tracked Trump administration policy that ended asylum protections for migrants who transited through another country before arriving in the U.S.

“We are once again being asked to adapt and to do so with very little time to train and prepare,” Lafferty wrote at the time. “If I didn’t know that we have some of the most dedicated, most adaptable and most talented public servants presently serving in the federal government I would be concerned about being able to implement these changes on such short notice.”

It’s unclear if the memo was linked in any way to Lafferty’s reassignment. Starting on Sept. 10, Lafferty will become deputy director of the Potomac Service Center in Arlington, where he’ll oversee the processing of applications for permanent residency and work permits for international students.

HUFFINGTON POST