Cuccinelli was slammed by Rep. Lacy Clay for pushing for additional burdens on families already under major emotional strain.
Ken Cuccinelli, the acting head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) testified in Congress on Wednesday that families with children in dire medical situations should simultaneously "make their case" in the immigration court system to avoid deportation.
Cuccinelli appeared before the House Oversight Committee to address concerns about a series of letters the administration sent to migrant families, threatening deportation despite serious medical conditions.
That policy was rescinded after public outcry, spearheaded by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who was chair of the committee until his passing on Oct. 17.
During Wednesdays' hearing, Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) raised the fact that two sets of parents with children in a neonatal intensive care unit had received the threatening letters from USCIS.
"We do not look at particular cases when making process decisions," Cuccinelli responded, when asked about the letters.
"So you don't care?" Clay asked.
"You bet I care," Cuccinelli replied, before arguing Congress should pass legislation to address the situation.
Clay continued to press the issue. "What did you expect [the families] to do? You want them to leave the country? Pack up their stuff, take their sick child and go?" he asked.
"Either that or make their case in the immigration process where it's appropriate to do so," Cuccinelli answered.
"All in the middle of them being there, hoping and praying that they save their child's life?" Clay responded. "How cruel. How cruel. Really? Really? I don't believe this."
The Trump administration has targeted immigrants from its earliest days. Trump himself launched his 2016 presidential bid by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers, a refrain he has echoed throughout his presidency.
Trump has also aggressively pursued policies like the U.S.-Mexico border wall, a Muslim travel ban, and draconian limits on refugees to further his goal of decreasing immigration — legal or undocumented — altogether.
The latest move to target families of sick children has particularly riled immigration advocates who slammed the policy, which would have removed protections known as deferred action that prevent them from being deported, as unconscionable.
"These families and countless more across the country, if denied deferred action, will be faced with the horrific choice of being undocumented in the U.S. and paying for care out of pocket or being deported to home countries where their children will not be able to receive this medical care and will face severely reduced quality of life, and in most cases, death," said Ronnie Millar, executive director of the Irish International Immigrant Center, which along with several other civil rights groups, sued the administration over the new policy.
Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU, also called the administration's decision racist, stating at the time that a large number of deferred action recipients were non-white immigrants.
The administration later suspended its plan to roll-back deferred action protections amid the backlash.
"While limiting USCIS’ role in deferred action is appropriate, USCIS will complete the caseload that was pending on August 7," the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS' parent agency, said in a statement.
The officials did not say, however, whether new deferred action applications would be considered.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.