Ken Cuccinelli’s fierce focus on protecting Americans

Why We Wrote This

At a Monitor Breakfast, the head of a key Homeland Security agency defended new restrictions on legal immigration in “America First” terms.

Matt Orlando/The Christian Science Monitor
Ken Cuccinelli speaks at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor at the St. Regis hotel in Washington Oct. 16, 2019.

Ken Cuccinelli may not be a household name for most Americans, but inside the Beltway, he’s what I call “Washington famous.” Mr. Cuccinelli made a name for himself as the very conservative attorney general of Virginia, and has been a political player ever since.

On Oct. 16, I welcomed Mr. Cuccinelli to the Monitor Breakfast for the first time. What’s striking is his even-keeled, lawyerly demeanor. On paper, he comes across as a firebrand – a strong social conservative, and on immigration, fiercely focused on making sure immigrants don’t take away jobs from Americans or become a burden on taxpayers.

In person, he’s hardly an arm-waving populist. But there was a definite “America First” strain to his remarks. When I asked him why, in such a strong economy with so many jobs unfilled, it makes sense to add restrictions on legal immigration, he was unequivocal.

“The president has made no secret of the fact that he believes the American immigration system, first and foremost, is set up to work for America,” he said.

But Mr. Cuccinelli also proudly touted the number of new citizens sworn in in the last year (more than 800,000). My colleague Mark Trumbull wrote on the idea of “good” versus “bad” immigrants.

Later, Mr. Cuccinelli asserted that a constitutional amendment wouldn’t be required to end “birthright citizenship” – the granting of citizenship to almost anyone born on U.S. soil. That’s the headline on my article from the breakfast. Most legal scholars see birthright citizenship as enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The C-SPAN video of our breakfast can be viewed here.

If any of us look bleary-eyed, it may be because we were up past bedtime the night before watching split-screen TV: the fourth Democratic presidential debate and the Washington Nationals winning the pennant – the first league championship for any Washington baseball team since the Senators in 1933.

At the end of our breakfast, I asked Mr. Cuccinelli if he was a baseball fan.
“I am,” he said. “I was up late!”

Our next breakfast is scheduled for Nov. 6, featuring Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

See you next month.

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