The former director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, who was forced out of his position by President Donald Trump earlier this year, has returned to the Department of Homeland Security in a policy role, officials told BuzzFeed News on Thursday.
"Prior to his appointment as the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Francis Cissna was a career official in the Department’s Office of Policy, where he has assumed new duties," a DHS spokesperson said.
L. Francis Cissna resigned as USCIS chief at the direction of President Trump earlier this year, according to an email he sent the staff, after critics claimed Cissna had failed to quickly implement the administration's immigration policies.
One source with knowledge of the White House’s thinking at the time said Cissna was perceived as “lacking the leadership, assertiveness, and executive savvy” to guide the administration’s biggest policy priorities in the second half of Trump’s first term.
News of his new role in the administration was met with surprise by some officials Tuesday.
“It’s like having your ex over for holidays with your new in-laws," an administration official told BuzzFeed News. "Super awkward.”
"Given the way the administration disposed of him so publicly from USCIS, it's hard to see how he'll be able to get anything done in this key immigration policy office at DHS," a USCIS official said.
Cissna, who served for more than a decade at DHS, was appointed to lead the agency in the early days of the Trump administration. Since then, he has won the praise of immigration restrictionists who believe he dutifully carried out Trump’s campaign promises to stem the flow of immigrants, including pushing a proposal that immigrants who use or are likely to use public benefits, such as food stamps and housing vouchers, could be denied green cards or entry into the United States.
Elsewhere, Cissna cracked down on the H-1B visa system, announced plans to shut down international USCIS offices, and, in what many saw as a symbolic step, took out the phrase “nation of immigrants” from the agency’s mission statement. Under his direction, the agency was also considering moves to institute a fee for asylum applications and extend the time asylum-seekers needed to wait to obtain work permits.