Sen. Jeff Sessions Presses AG Nominee Lynch On Illegal Immigrant Workers

Loretta Lynch is sworn in for testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jan. 28, 2015.
Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions pressed Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch on who has a greater right to work in the United States during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“In the workplace of America today, when we have a high number of unemployed. We’ve had declining wages for many years. We have the lowest percentage of Americans working who has more right to a job in this country, a lawful immigrant who’s here — a green card holder — or a citizen or a person who entered the country unlawfully?” the Alabama Republican asked.

Lynch, who’s been nominated to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, responded that all people should be working.

“I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that is shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here,” she said. “And certainly if someone is here regardless of status. I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace.”

When Sessions asked the nominee to clarify whether she believes anyone in the United States, regardless of legal status, should be allowed to take a job in America, Lynch responded, “certainly the benefits of citizenship confer greater rights on those of us who are citizens than those who are not.”

Lynch argued that while “we want everyone to seek employment” the onus to ensure the legal status of a given employee is on the backs of the employer.

Of whether she supports President Obama’s executive amnesty, Lynch said: “I don’t believe my role at this point is to support or not support it. My review was to see whether or not it did outline a legal framework for some of the actions that were requested. And as noted, it indicated there was not a legal framework for other actions that were requested.”

Earlier in the hearing she said that the legal arguments for Obama’s executive amnesty are “reasonable.”

According to Lynch, those illegal immigrants granted deferred status under Obama’s amnesty do not have “any greater access to the workforce.”

Sessions also asked the nominee whether a pathway to citizenship is a “civil right,” as Holder once asserted.

“Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential,” Sessions quoted Holder. “The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights.”

Sessions asked Lynch whether she agreed with Holder’s assertion.

“I think that citizenship is a privilege, certainly it’s a right for those of us born here. I think its a privilege that has to be earned and within the panoply of civil rights that are recognized by our jurisprudence now I don’t see one as such that you are describing,” she said.

Sessions responded that he agreed and called the current attorney general’s statement “breathtaking.”


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