In a press release sent out by the office of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the senator calls the well-respected organization Casa de Maryland “a fringe advocacy group that has instructed illegal immigrants on how to escape detection, and also promoted illegal labor sites and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.” Casa de Maryland was the driving force behind a successful campaign for tuition equity for young immigrants in the state. Sessions was speaking against the nomination of Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor.
“Mr. Perez has also had a controversial tenure at the Department of Justice where he has demonstrated a fundamentally political approach to the law,” Sessions said. “Controversial,” for Sessions, of course, means telling sheriffs they cannot engage in racial profiling.
Perez has overseen the investigations of Sheriffs Joe Arpaio in Arizona and Terry Johnson of North Carolina, both of whom were accused of (and found to have been) engaging in racial profiling against the Latino residents of Maricopa and Alamance Counties, respectively. He is also a previous board member of Casa.
Arpaio and Johnson were poster-boys for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the anti-immigrant movement. Prison officers in Maricopa circulated a photo of a Chihuahua in a bathing suit referring to it as a “Mexican Navy Seal” and Johnson reportedly referred to Latinos as “taco eaters.” Johnson has also attended the FAIR-organized “border school” which saw significant opposition and controversy after the Southern Poverty Law Center discovered that FAIR misled sheriffs into believing that they could receive a certain kind of federal funding to attend the school.
Casa came under significant pressure from the anti-immigrant movement during the campaign for tuition equity, having to win both in the legislature and a NumbersUSA-backed attack on the law by ballot initiative. In the end, pro-immigrant forces defeated NumbersUSA and a state-based anti-immigrant organization, Help Save Maryland, by seeing tuition equity win the popular vote.
Sessions regularly casts his lot with the anti-immigrant movement, teaming up for a YouTube video with Chris Crane, head of the National ICE Council and part of a lawsuit against deferred action for undocumented youth, and calling for ICE Director John Morton to resign. The fight to confirm Perez will likely heat up, as the anti-immigrant movement prepares to fight someone they know will be an obstacle for them in the administration.