Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, during a CNN interview Thursday night, addressed the widely circulated photo of a migrant father and his 2-year-old daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. Pictures of 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria lying facedown on the bank of the river sparked outrage and directed condemnation at the Trump administration “metering” policy that restricts the number of asylum-seekers each day while forcing the rest to wait in shelters in Mexico. Cuccinelli, an immigration hard-liner who was nominated by President Donald Trump this month to head the federal agency that oversees immigration and asylum, pushed back against that criticism, and the idea that the photo could be a turning point in the immigration debate, by instead placing blame on the father for not waiting his turn.
“It is a tragedy what happened with the father and daughter there, but the reality is that until we fix the asylum loopholes that encourage people to come here fraudulently we will keep seeing these tragedies,” Cuccinelli said. “But the reason we have tragedies like that on the border is because that father didn’t wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion and decided to cross the river and not only died but his daughter died tragically as well. … Until we fix the attractions in our asylum system, people like that father and that child are going to continue to come through a dangerous trip.”
Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, was selected for the post because he holds similarly extreme anti-immigration views as the president who put him there. “As a state lawmaker in Virginia, Cuccinelli once sponsored a bill that would strip undocumented immigrants’ U.S.-born children of their citizenship,” the Washington Post notes. “He has said a D.C. ordinance that doesn’t let animal control workers kill rats is worse than U.S. immigration policy because, ‘You can’t break up rat families.’ ”