Army veteran Oscar Vazquez delivered a powerful testimony against Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, arguing the Republican senator would not protect immigrants in the United States.
The testimony came as Democrats and civil-rights advocates wage a confirmation battle to block Sessions from the nation’s top law-enforcement post.
Vazquez was born in Mexico, and immigrated to the US with his mother at age 12 when they crossed the border into Arizona.
During his testimony, he made indirect criticism of Sessions’ hardline stance against immigration reform, particularly his opposition to the DREAM Act, a proposal that would open a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants.
“Our country’s top law-enforcement officer must be someone who understands that immigrants make our country stronger,” Vazquez said.
“We need an attorney general who will protect the American people from those who will do us harm, but who would also show mercy to those who deserve it.”
Vazquez said his undocumented status initially prevented him from joining the military, and only became a citizen following a lengthy legal battle that involved leaving his American wife for a year to re-immigrate to the US. After gaining citizenship, he joined the Army as a paratrooper and served two tours in Afghanistan.
“I was following in the footsteps of countless other immigrants who have proudly served the United States,” Vazquez said.
He continued: “In Afghanistan, I fought side by side with my Army brothers. We wore the same uniform, wore the US flag on the same shoulder. It mattered more that we were willing to die for each other and our country than where we came from.”
Vazquez, now living with his family in Texas, said he plans to join the US Army Reserve, and said he felt he was “living the American dream.” He insisted to the Senate Judiciary Committee that other undocumented immigrants must be shown similar leniency.
“Having legal status changed my life,” Vazquez said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have that taken away from me.”