Ken Cuccinelli, a top immigration official in the Trump administration, said Monday that the man accused of stabbing five Hasidic Jews in New York is the son of an “illegal alien.”
Cuccinelli, the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, tweeted that Grafton Thomas’ father came to the country illegally and was given amnesty under a sweeping immigration bill signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
“Apparently, American values did not take hold among this entire family, at least this one violent, and apparently bigoted, son,” Cuccinelli wrote in a tweet that was later deleted.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Citizenship and Immigration services, did not immediately respond to Pluralist’s questions about the accuracy of the tweet and why it was posted and deleted.
Thomas, 38, was charged Sunday morning with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary for allegedly breaking into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, Rockland County, and going on a stabbing spree the previous night. Also Monday, federal prosecutors announced hate crime charges against him.
Former Department of Homeland Security officials told The New York Times it was normal to search databases for the immigration and travel records of suspected criminals, but unusual to publicize the findings, especially early in an investigation.
Michael Sussman, a lawyer representing Thomas, said at a news conference Monday that it was “absurd” to try to link the stabbing to immigration policy.
“It’s more than regrettable that the events of 30-plus years ago are in any way linked to this,” he said, responding to a question about Cuccinelli’s tweet.
Sussman said Thomas’ father has lived in Utah for many years and that the two had been in touch but did not have a close relationship. He said Kim Thomas, Grafton Thomas’ mother and a nurse, had immigrated to the United States from Guyana and became a citizen in 1986.
Ken Cuccinelli, Grafton Thomas and U.S. immigration
Cuccinelli, who is responsible for legal immigration, has played a leading role in President Donald Trump’s efforts to restrict the flow of immigrants coming to the United States. His advocacy of the administration’s hardline immigration policies — including frequent attacks on sanctuary cities — has frequently infuriated Trump critics.
In August, Cuccinelli proposed that the iconic sonnet on the Statue of Liberty be amended to reflect that the United States only welcomes immigrants “who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” He made the suggestion in defense of a Trump administration rule that would deny permanent residency to immigrants deemed likely to use government benefits.
Then, in a CNN interview that triggered accusations of white supremacy against him, Cuccinelli said the 136-year-old Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” needed to be understood in historical context.
“Well, of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe, where they had class-based societies where people were considered wretched if they weren’t in the right class,” he said.
“And it was introduced, it was written one year after the first federal public charge rule was written,” he added. “That says, and I’ll quote it, ‘Any person unable to take care of himself without becoming a public charge’ would be inadmissible. Or, in the terms that my agency deals with, they can’t do what’s called adjusting status: getting a green card, becoming legal permanent residents.”
- Grafton Thomas.: Screen grab