The Conversation

Obama's Pick For Labor Sec Threatened Alabama Police And Sheriffs Over Immigration Law

On the Senate floor, Thursday morning, Senator Jeff Sessions expressed amazement that "law enforcement officers in America are being directed not to follow plain law".

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the Sec of Homeland Security "doesn't have the ability to direct agents not to do what Congress has explicitly required them to do" as Sessions put it.

The very same dysfunctional dynamic has been at work in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice,  led by Thomas Perez, the radical ideologue Obama nominated to be Labor Secretary. 

AL.com reported:

Thomas Perez threatened to revoke federal funding for Alabama police and sheriffs if they enforced provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law.

Perez, 51, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, made the warning in meetings with Alabama sheriffs and police chiefs in June and July 2011, soon after the law was passed.

Perez repeated it in letters sent to local law enforcement officials in December 2011, saying the department was watching how they enforced a provision of the law that required them to check the immigration status of people they stopped for questioning.

He told the sheriffs that the U.S. Attorney General's office would cut their funding and file civil lawsuits against them if it determined that they were depriving people of their rights.

“We certainly perceived that as a threat,” said Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran. “He was basically putting us on notice that he would cut off our grants if he didn’t like the way we enforced the law.”

Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack  and Cochran met with Perez in Mobile in July 2011 for guidance on how best to enforce the law. Instead of guidance, Perez, without any evidence, accused their officers of making unlawful stops and searches.

“All we were saying (was), if the Legislature passes a law, we’ve got to enforce it. That’s what we swear to do when we take our oath,” Mack said.

Instead, he said, Perez “wanted to make law enforcement the villain,” and accused them of targeting Hispanics for unlawful stops and searches.

“He said, ‘We know your officers are conducting roadblocks and taking people into custody on immigration,’” Mack said. “We said, ‘Tell us. Where is this occurring? What county is this occurring in?’ Because it sure ain’t happening in Mobile and Baldwin counties.”

The Alabama Sheriff’s Association was already on record opposing the law, making Perez's hardball tactics all the more disturbing.

Perez "merits extremely close scrutiny by senators from both parties", said Peter Kirsenow, a member of the eight-member U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in a letter to Senators Harkin and Alexander, leaders of the  Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor. "Several concerns about Perez’s record as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice transcend partisanship and ideology", Kirsenow declared.

Kirsenow's damning letter is worth reading in its entirety as it lays out the reasons why Perez's "troubling" sworn testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers was less than truthful. 

After his run in with Perez, Sheriff Cochran said Perez does not deserve a promotion.

“In my opinion he’s not qualified to work in the Justice Department, much less serve in the Cabinet,” Cochran said. 

 Senate Democrats have delayed a confirmation vote on Perez amid Republican threats to hold a hearing on  his disgraceful handling of the Black Panther whistleblower case.

The vote that had been set for Thursday has been pushed back to May 8.







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