Obama nominee faces GOP scrutiny for criticizing Minutemen

On March 13, President Obama nominated Maryland civil rights lawyer Thomas J. Perez for the post of Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of Department of Justice. Six months later, Perez — currently Secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation — is being held up by Republican holds. Adam Serwer has the backstory, and has passed on one of the reasons the Republican minority is holding up Perez.

In his questionnaire for the nominee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee who made headlines for his tough questioning of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings, accused Perez of being unduly critical of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the anti-illegal immigration group. When the Maryland branch of the Minutemen announced plans to monitor day laborer sites, Perez, then a Montgomery County councilman and candidate for state attorney general, bemoaned the “long history of xenophobes who oppose immigration.”

“It seems that you are painting with a very broad brush,” wrote Sessions, “when you call all those who stand for a lawful system of immigration and immigration enforcement ‘xenophobes.’”

Sessions succeeded in making Perez walk back his statement; Perez, the son of Dominican immigrants, claimed he was referring to “a particular individual who had been soundly defeated in his bid for high office in my community.” Indeed, he was: the article cited by Sessions had him responding to Chuck Floyd, a candidate for county executive who claimed he was talking to “thousands of people” who were angry about day laborer sites. Floyd maintains a blog where he dishes out his current thinking. In his most recent post, he reminisces about the 9/12 march on Washington, reporting how happy he was “to see so many legal American citizens rally for the survival of our nation and our democracy.” Back in the Sessions questionnaire, Perez was asked to explain why he considered the Minutemen a “radical fringe group.”

The entire questionnaire is here. The Minuteman excerpts:

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sessions questionnaire

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