This summer, as anger over the separation of migrant families at the border boiled over, and the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement became a rallying cry for left-leaning Democrats, a number of less scrutinized, more arcane reforms were quietly working their way into the most foundational laws governing U.S. immigration.
One was the establishment of a “denaturalization task force” that pledges to investigate immigration fraud and strip away citizenship in such cases—something that’s historically been reserved for serious criminals or terrorists. Another was a new memo that allows visa officers to deny applications without first requesting more evidence or notifying an applicant.
Then there’s the refugee program, which has been decimated as the administration slashes the level of admissions and redirects its resources to domestic asylum cases—people who have already arrived safely in the United States. Andcoming soon: a controversial proposed regulation that could prevent immigrants from obtaining green cards if they or their family members have used a public benefit, which is expected to include everything from food stamps to health insurance programs.
The man overseeing these reforms isn’t Stephen Miller, the White House aide publicly known as the architect of President Donald Trump’s most restrictionist immigration policies. It’s Lee Francis Cissna, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency that not only facilitates legal immigration, but historically celebrates it. Miller is rightly seen as the mastermind of Trump’s far-reaching immigration crackdown, but Cissna is arguably just as important because he makes it happen.