Iowa's U.S. attorney nominees move to Senate floor

Iowans Nick Klinefeldt and Stephanie Rose were among three U.S. attorney nominees the Senate Judiciary Committee approved today by unanimous consent, the Main Justice blog reported. Their nominations still need to be confirmed by the full Senate, but that is likely to be a formality. In March, Senator Tom Harkin recommended Klinefeldt for the U.S. attorney position in Iowa’s southern district and Rose for the position in Iowa’s northern district. President Barack Obama nominated the two last month.

Main Justice posted a short bio of Klinefeldt here and a short bio of Rose here. Those pages include links to the nominees’ full Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaires (pdf files).

A Bleeding Heartland reader who watched today’s committee meeting tells me that Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy asked if there were any objections to the nominations, and none were raised. Senator Chuck Grassley told his colleagues that he “had interviewed both Iowa nominees –he praised Harkin’s selections and both nominees–he asked that a statement he prepared be made part of the record but did not read the statement.”

I expected the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Rose about her role in last year’s prosecutions of hundreds of undocumented workers from Postville. Harkin has defended her on the grounds that officials senior to Rose made the key policy decisions. Even so, Rose should have been asked about the cases and how they might have been handled differently. As things stand, I agree with critics who say promoting Rose without asking serious questions “would constitute a stamp of approval on the Postville debacle.”

Professor Erik Camayd-Freixas, a Spanish-language court interpreter, has spoken and written at length about injustice he observed in the aftermath of the Postville raid:

Professor Camayd-Freixas wrote that the immigrant defendants whose words he translated, most of them villagers from Guatemala, did not fully understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived.

In the essay and an interview, Professor Camayd-Freixas said he was taken aback by the rapid pace of the proceedings and the pressure prosecutors brought to bear on the defendants and their lawyers by pressing criminal charges instead of deporting the workers immediately for immigration violations.

He said defense lawyers had little time or privacy to meet with their court-assigned clients in the first hectic days after the raid. Most of the Guatemalans could not read or write, he said. Most did not understand that they were in criminal court.

Click here to watch a video interview of Camayd-Freixas or download his 14-page essay about his experience with the Postville detainees. Rose may have the skills to be a good U.S. attorney, but it bothers me that the Senate Judiciary Committee has just indicated that they have no concerns or objections about last year’s events in Iowa. That’s a bad message to send to U.S. attorneys everywhere.

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