(CNSNews.com) - Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be attorney general, told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in her confirmation hearing that illegal aliens have “the right” to work in the United States.
Lynch, who is currently the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, also declined to directly answer the question of whether as attorney general she would take action against an employer who discriminated in favor of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents by hiring them in preference to illegal aliens.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) asked Lynch “who has more right to a job in this country," citizens and legal permanent residents or illegal aliens?
“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 responded.
Sessions also asked her if she would take action as attorney general against an employer who preferred hiring U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents over illegal aliens.
“With respect to whether or not those individuals [illegal aliens] would be able to seek redress for employment discrimination, if that is the purpose of your question, again, I haven't studied that legal issue,” said Lynch.
Here is a transcript of the exchange between Sen. Jeff Sessions and attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch on the employment rights of illegal aliens:
Sen. Jeff Sessions: Well, the president's action would give people who came here unlawfully the right to work, the right to participate in Social Security and Medicare when Congress has not done that, allows them to stay for at least a period lawfully.
Let me ask you this: 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 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?
Loretta Lynch: Well, Senator, 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. And certainly, if someone here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace. With respect to--
Sessions: So you think that a person that anybody that's here lawfully or unlawfully is entitled to work in America?
Lynch: Senator, I'm not sure if I know, if I understand the basis for your question as -- as to whether or not there's a legal basis for them to work or not.
Sessions: I asked you, who had--we're talking about rights--who has the most rights? Does a lawful American immigrant or citizen have the right to have the laws of the United States enforced so that they might be able to work, or does a person who came here unlawfully have a right to demand a job?
Lynch: Certainly, the benefits of citizenship confer greater rights on those of who are citizens than those who are not.
Sessions: Well, do you think a person that's here unlawfully is entitled to work in the United States when the law says that employers can't hire somebody unlawfully in America?
Lynch: I believe that--go ahead.
Sessions: Go ahead.
Lynch: Sorry, sir. I think that certainly the provision that you refer to regarding to the role of the employer in ensuring the legal status of those who are here is an important one and that we have to look at in conjunction with this issue in terms of preventing undocumented workers, who, as you've indicated before, are seeking employment.
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.
Sessions: Alright. Do you think that someone given--I understand that you support the executive order and OLC's opinion. Is that correct?
Lynch: 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.
Sessions: Well, let me wrap up by asking this: Are you--if a person comes here and is given a lawful right under the president's executive amnesty to have Social Security and a work authorization card, what if somebody prefers to hire an American citizen first? Would you take action against them? Do you understand this to mean that those who are given executive amnesty are entitled as much as anybody else in America to compete for a job in America?
Lynch: Well, I don't believe that it would give anyone any greater access to the workforce, and certainly an employer would be looking at the issues of citizenship in making those determinations.
Sessions: Would you take action against an employer who says, ‘No, I prefer to hire someone that came to the country lawfully rather than someone given executive amnesty by the president?’ Would Department of Justice take action against them?
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley: When you answer that, I'll move on then.
Lynch: Thank you, sir. With respect to the provision about temporary deferral, I did not read it as providing a legal amnesty, that is, that permanent status there, but a temporary deferral. With respect to whether or not those individuals would be able to seek redress for employment discrimination, if that is the purpose of your question, again, I haven't studied that legal issue. I certainly think you raised an important point and would look forward to discussing it with you and using, and relying, upon your thoughts and experience as we consider that point.