Stanford law Professor Tino Cuéllar was named this week to lead President-elect Barack Obama’s transition working group on immigration, putting him among the many scholars from the Bay Area who are helping shape the next administration.
Through a law school spokeswoman, Cuéllar declined to be interviewed, but lawyers and immigration experts across the country praised him Friday for his intellect and his grasp of both regulatory minutiae and the big picture of American immigration policy.
“He’s brilliant beyond his years,” said John Trasviña, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who met Cuéllar when he was a law student at Yale and encouraged him to go to work in Washington.
At 36, Cuéllar already has an impressive resume. Raised on the U.S.-Mexico border in Calexico (Imperial County), he earned his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University before going to Yale Law School and finishing up with a doctorate in political science from Stanford, where he’s now a full professor specializing in administrative law.
Along the way, he spent two years at the U.S. Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, where he worked on fighting money-laundering operations.
Cuéllar has been described as a close adviser to Obama on immigration, and the American Bar Association recently suggested he could be on the short list to head the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
Cuéllar will co-lead the immigration policy group with Georgetown University Law Center Dean T. Alexander Aleinikoff, who was second in command at the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton years.
The fact that Cuéllar grew up on the border may mean he has strong views about the border fence currently being expanded by the Department of Homeland Security, said Chishti [Muzaffar Chishti, a senior staff member at the Migration Policy Institute].