President Trump continues to nominate judges with a demonstrated lack of respect for the values of justice and equality for all people. In particular, People For the American Way and other immigration advocates are calling out five judicial nominees who’ve opposed critical legal protections for immigrant communities. As outlined in our letter to the Senate, Andrew Oldham, J. Campbell Barker, Michael Truncale, Wendy Vitter, and Mark Norris are on the record disparaging immigrants, arguing against refugee resettlement, and fighting protections for Dreamers and their families. You can download our letter here.
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:
We write on behalf of the undersigned organizations that are alarmed by the anti-immigrant records of a recent slate of President Trump’s nominees for lifetime seats in the federal judiciary. Specifically, we have serious concerns about the nominations of Andy Oldham to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, J. Campbell Barker to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Michael Truncale to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Wendy Vitter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Mark Norris to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.
These nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench have records opposing critical legal protections for our immigrant communities. They are on the record making derogatory comments about immigrants, arguing against refugee resettlement, and leading the efforts to block protections for Dreamers and their families. Unfortunately, President Trump’s dangerous, hateful, and anti-immigrant rhetoric is also reflected in his selection of anti-immigrant judges. This trend should be disturbing to everyone in America.
With these recent nominees, President Trump has taken special aim at the Fifth Circuit—home to many immigrant families—in selecting judges with anti-immigrant records. For example, Andy Oldham, nominated to the Fifth Circuit, has a history of weaponizing the law against immigrant communities in Texas and across the country. Oldham was the architect of the strategy to block the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) initiative and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).1 His amended complaint challenging the programs made the demonstrably false claim that DACA “led directly to a flood of immigration across the Texas-Mexico border,”2 and he personally argued in support of Texas’s motion for preliminary injunction that prevented these efforts from going forward nationwide in 2015, hurting Dreamers and millions of mixed-status families throughout the country.3
John Campbell “Cam” Barker, nominated to the Eastern District of Texas, also has an extensive professional record of targeting immigrants, including joining Andy Oldham in fighting legal protections for Dreamers and their families, supporting Trump’s discriminatory Muslim ban, and defending Texas’s notorious SB 4, legislation that overrides the judgment of local law enforcement to promote racial profiling and undermine public safety.4 Also nominated to the Eastern District of Texas is Michael Truncale, who used fear-mongering against immigrants during an unsuccessful run for Congress, claiming “We have all sort of bad influences coming in.”5
In Louisiana, Donald Trump has nominated Wendy Vitter to be a judge for the Eastern District. During an appearance on behalf of her husband’s gubernatorial campaign, Vitter supported his discriminatory proposal to ban Syrian refugees from being resettled in Louisiana. Although her employer, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, helped to resettle refugees in the state, Vitter stated, “It’s President Barack Obama’s policy. It is not Catholic Charities’ policy and I can guarantee it’s not Wendy Vitter’s policy.”6
Trump’s anti-immigrant nominees for lifetime positions have not been limited to courts within the Fifth Circuit. Perhaps the most vehemently anti-Muslim judicial nominee to come out of the Trump Administration is Mark Norris, nominated to the Western District of Tennessee, who has made a career out of stoking fear against immigrants for political gain. As a state representative, Norris championed a resolution forcing the state to sue the federal government to block refugees from being resettled in Tennessee, compared refugees to ISIS members, and sponsored blatantly unconstitutional legislation to subject undocumented immigrants to longer state prison sentences based on their status.7
The United States district and circuit courts play a critical role in safeguarding our rights, including ensuring the due process of law, protecting persons of color who face discrimination because of race or nationality, and guaranteeing the right to vote. The records of these nominees indicate an antipathy toward immigrants and refugees and a disrespect for our constitutional order. Confirming these nominees to lifetime positions in the federal judiciary will further erode the independence and integrity of the branch of government that is most needed today and in the years ahead.
cc: Members of the U.S. Senate