AG nominee accused of insulting Dominicans for quoting U.S. official on chain migration.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, but not before Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) excoriated his Senate colleague for allegedly maligning Dominicans.
In announcing his opposition to Sessions, Whitehouse invoked former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and said the Alabama senator insulted Dominicans.
“Well tell that to ‘Big Papi,’ David Ortiz, and the Red Sox fans of New England.”
“He has on numerous occasions used racially charged or downright offensive rhetoric to belittle broad groups of Americans, including for instance, Rhode Island’s wonderful Dominican community, saying that Dominicans come to this country basically to sponge and be useless,” he said “Well tell that to ‘Big Papi,’ David Ortiz, and the Red Sox fans of New England.”
The speech Whitehouse alluded to was a 2006 address by Sessions on the Senate floor in opposition to an immigration-liberalization effort that then-President George W. Bush was pushing. He criticized “chain migration” and called for reforming an immigration lottery that randomly confers green cards on applicants around the world.
The main point Sessions was making, as he has during his entire career, is that the immigration system should be designed to serve the national interest — not necessarily those of immigrants.
He said a merit-based system, giving preference to immigrants with college degrees and other skills, would do more to improve the economy and aid the process of assimilation.
Immigrants who lack education, job skills, and the ability to speak fluent English are more likely to earn less money and become a burden on government anti-poverty programs. It is a fact that is hard to dispute, based on raw numbers. And Sessions noted that a large number of the people who immigrate do so because of “chain migration” rules that allow immigrants to sponsor extended family members regardless of their skills and education.
Sessions pointed to other Western democracies that have immigration rules similar to the ones he was advocating.
The senator’s comments about Dominicans were not his own words but those of an American consulate official in the Dominican Republic with whom he had spoken. Sessions said the official told him many from the Caribbean country enter into sham marriages in order to immigrate in larger groups.
“I talked to the person in the Dominican Republic, the American consulate official who meets with those people in the Dominican Republic who would like to come to the United States,” Sessions said “as a U.S. attorney prosecuting a case where people created a sham marriage for immigration purposes, he said they won’t even talk about prosecuting a case in the Dominican Republic.”
He said the consular official told him that “95 percent of the people in the Dominican Republic who were approved to come to the United States were approved under the chain migration or family connection provisions in our code.”
Sessions also pointed out that most of the immigrants from the impoverished Caribbean country lack advanced skills and education that would predict success in the United States.
“Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society,” he said during that speech. “They come in because some other family member of a qualified relation is here as a citizen or even a green card holder. That is how they get to come. They are creating a false document to show these are relatives or their spouses and they are married when it is not so.”
Notwithstanding Ortiz’s greatly in-demand skill — the ability to bash a baseball — many of his countrymen do, in fact, struggle in the United States. Sessions was not insinuating, as Whitehouse suggested, that Dominicans possess some sort of moral flaw that makes them bad Americans. He was merely commenting on well-documented statistical evidence and reporting on the comments about fraud made by a consular official stationed in the country.