WITH THE stroke of a pen on Jan. 19, the day before President Biden took office, employees of the federal government’s main deportation agency were empowered to thwart the new administration’s policies. The union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, a longtime ally of former president Donald Trump, was handed what amounts to a veto over the White House thanks to the machinations of one man: Ken Cuccinelli, then-acting deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
Mr. Cuccinelli, an immigration hard-liner, schemed during the outgoing administration’s final days to fix in place its deportation policies and stymie those of Mr. Biden. A former Republican attorney general of Virginia once fond of bashing Democrats’ pro-labor policies, he signed a deal with the union representing ICE agents and employees that may be among the most pro-labor agreements ever reached by the federal government.
In a series of memorandums of understanding reported by the New York Times, Mr. Cuccinelli, whose own appointment had been deemed legally questionable, agreed with ICE’s union that the federal government would be forbidden from making any “modifications whatsoever concerning the policies, hours, functions, alternate work schedules, resources, tools, compensation and the like” affecting the agency and roughly 7,500 agents and employees — without the explicit written consent of union officials.
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