The appointment of Joseph Edlow come at the request of the White House and Wolf, who oversees the agency, a source familiar with the change told CNN.
Edlow, who is USCIS chief counsel, is moving into a deputy director role and will serve as the day-to-day leader of the agency effective Wednesday, according to an internal agency notice.
The move pushes out the current deputy director Mark Koumans, a career official, who has been running daily operations.
The shift comes three months into Wolf’s tenure and amid additional leadership changes to move allies into key positions. The agency, which manages the federal government’s legal immigration system, has been at the forefront of some of the administration’s most aggressive and controversial immigration policy changes, most notably the public charge rule, which seeks to limit access to green cards for immigrants that receive certain government benefits.
Chad Mizelle, viewed as an ally of senior White House policy adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, was tapped to be the Department of Homeland Security’s top attorney last week.
Immigration hardliner Ken Cuccinelli, who oversaw the rollout of the public charge regulation, is the acting chief at USCIS, but he remains the number two at Homeland Security headquarters, where he has been assigned since November.
Since his move to the department, Cuccinelli has left the daily work at USCIS to other officials, although he continues to actively promote the administration’s agenda.
Wolf and the White House wanted to install someone who would be more “forward leaning,” believing that things have become stagnant over the past few months, the source said.
CNN has reached out to USCIS for comment.
DHS created two deputy director roles at USCIS as a part of this transition, the source said. Koumans will become the deputy director of operations at the agency, but he will be detailed to the department’s management office.
In his letter to the workforce, Edlow thanked Koumans for his “steadfast leadership at USCIS through the many transitions over the past year.”
Edlow also touted the agency’s “dedication to administering our nation’s lawful immigration system and maintaining its integrity,” as well as actions to prevent and identify immigration fraud and a record number of naturalizations. “And together, we continue to work with our federal partners to address the crisis at the border and restore the rule of law,” he wrote.
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