By Peter Sullivan - 01/28/15 11:59 AM EST
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch defended President Obama's executive actions on immigration Wednesday, but noted that she was not involved with the contentious decision.
Speaking of the Office of Legal Counsel memo laying out the legal justification for the action shielding millions of people in the country illegally from deportation, Lynch said, "I don't see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views."
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lynch echoed the administration's argument that the Department of Homeland Security is not able to deport all of the people in the country illegally, so it should prioritize categories like criminals and remove the threat of deportation from others.
That justification "seemed to be a reasonable way to marshal limited resources," Lynch said.
"The Department of Homeland Security was seeking legal guidance on the most effective way to prioritize the removal of groups of large numbers of individuals given that their resources would not permit removal of everyone who fell within the respective category," she said.
She provided some distance by also saying, "I was not involved in the decisions that led to the executive actions that you referenced," responding to questiong from Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyMcConnell blames dysfunction on Dems Four states sue to stop internet transition Senate passes bill to preserve sexual assault kits MORE (R-Iowa.)
Leading opponent of Obama's actions, Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff Sessions3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears Trump, Clinton discuss counterterrorism with Egyptian president MORE (R-Ala.) pressed Lynch on whether citizenship is a "civil right" for those who come the country illegally.
"Citizenship is a privilege, certainly it's a right for those of us born here," Lynch replied. "It's a privilege that has to be earned."
"I certainly agree, I'm a little surprised it took you that long," Sessions replied.
In introducing Lynch, Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal 78 lawmakers vote to sustain Obama veto MORE (D-N.Y.) sought to separate Lynch and her qualifications from the broader immigration fight.
"The president’s immigration policies aren’t seeking confirmation today," Schumer said. "Loretta Lynch is."