AG Nominee: Law Gets In The Way Of Illegal Immigrants ‘Right’ To Work

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Rachel Stoltzfoos Staff Reporter
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President Obama’s nominee for attorney general acknowledged current law bans illegal immigrants from working, but said she would prefer everyone in the country be allowed to exercise their “right and obligation” to work.

“The role of the employer is an important one we have to look at,” nominee Loretta Lynch said in a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday. “Again, we want everyone to seek employment, but we have in place at this point in time a legal framework that requests or requires employers to both provide information about citizenship, as well as not hire individuals without citizenship,” she added.

Lynch was responding to a line of questions from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions about the comparative rights of illegal immigrants and citizens or legal immigrants.

“Who has more right to a job in this country?” Sessions asked, noting a time of high unemployment, declining wages and a low percentage of Americans working. “A lawful immigrant who is here — a green card holder or a citizen or a person who entered the country unlawfully?”

“I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that’s shared by everyone in this country, regardless of how they came here,” Lynch 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.”

But Lynch acknowledged current citizens have greater rights than non-citizens, and said immigration is not a civil rights issue.

“Is it a civil right for a person who enters the country unlawfully, who would like to work and like to be a citizen, to demand that contrary to the laws of the United States, and when Congress doesn’t pass it, is that a right they are entitled to demand?” Sessions asked.

“I think it’s a privilege that has to be earned,” Lynch responded. “And within the panoply of civil rights that are recognized by our jurisprudence now I don’t see one such as you are describing.”

Asked again whether illegal immigrants have the right to demand a job, Lynch said: “Certainly the benefits of citizenship confer greater rights on those of us who are citizens that those who are not.”

Attorney General Eric Holder has referred to a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants as a civil right.

“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,” he said in 2013. “This is a matter of civil and human rights.”

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