Lynch defends Obama's immigration policies

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Lynch defends Obama's immigration policies
Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney general, speaks during a keynote session at the RSA Conference 2016 in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Lynch challenged Apple Inc.'s refusal to comply with a judge's order that it help unlock a dead terrorist's iPhone, bluntly questioning the company's insistence that it has the right to refuse to cooperate. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attorney General Loretta Lynch arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, to testify before the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on gun control. Lynch defended President Barack Obama's executive actions curbing guns, telling lawmakers that the president took lawful, common-sense steps to stem firearms violence that kills and injures tens of thousands of Americans yearly. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
Attorney General Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016,before the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department's fiscal 2017 budget request. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Loretta Lynch smiles before being sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the U.S. at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 27, 2015. Lynch was confirmed by the Senate on April 23 as the first black woman to become U.S. attorney general after a five-month wait marked by partisan fights and Republican arguments that she won't be independent enough from President Barack Obama. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Loretta Lynch shakes hands with Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (L) after being sworn in as Attorney General during an event at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd Attorney General and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US Vice-President Joe Biden delivers remarks prior to swearing-in Loretta E. Lynch as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States April 27, 2015 at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: US Vice President Joe Biden (L) swears in Loretta Lynch (R) as Attorney General as her husband Stephen Hargrove (2R) and father Lorenzo Lynch (2L) stand nearby during an event at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd Attorney General and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 27: Loretta Lynch speaks after being sworn in as Attorney General as a portrait of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy hangs on the wall neaby at the Justice Department April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Lynch is the 83rd attorney general and is replacing Eric Holder. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears for her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee'€™s hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation'€™s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., right, looks back at Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch after introducing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, prior to her testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee'€™s hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation’s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, left, talks with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, after Gillibrand introduced Lynch to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Lynch was to testify at a hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation'€™s first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Loretta Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, speaks at a press conference to announce a 20-count indictment against U.S. Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY, 11th District) on April 28, 2014 in New York City. Grimm's indictments include wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiring to defraud the United States, impeding the Internal Revenue Service, hiring and employing unauthorized aliens, and health care fraud. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Loretta Lynch listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Committee chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (L) and ranking member Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) talk while Loretta Lynch speaks during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch leaves her for a break during her confirmation hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Loretta Lynch listens to questions during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Loretta Lynch, a prosecutor with the US Attorney Eastern District of New York, has been nominated to serve as US Attorney General. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, left, shakes hands with chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, right, as ranking member Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., look on during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Lorenzo Lynch (2nd L), father of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch (L), raises his hand as he is being introduced during a confirmation hearing before Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder to be the next U.S. Attorney General if confirmed by the Senate. Stephen Hargrove, husband of Loretta Lynch is on the right. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch reaches for the Navy SEAL trident pin of her brother -- a former SEAL who died in 2009 -- during a break in her testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee'€™s hearing on her nomination. If confirmed, Lynch would replace Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation in September after leading the Justice Department for six years. The 55-year-old federal prosecutor would be the nation's first black female attorney general. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 29: Character witnesses for Loretta Lynch raise their right hands as they are sworn in during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing January 29, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015, before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on her nomination. Lynch defended President Barack Obama's decision to shelter millions of immigrants from deportation though they live in the country illegally but she said they have no right to citizenship under the law. If confirmed, Lynch would become the nation's first black female attorney general. It is the first confirmation proceeding since Republicans took control of the Senate this month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee January 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. If confirmed by the full Senate Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Challenged by Republicans, Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch on Wednesday defended President Barack Obama's decision to shelter millions of immigrants from deportation though they live in the country illegally. But she said they have no right to citizenship under the law.

She told her Senate confirmation hearing that under the administration's policy, the Department of Homeland Security focuses its efforts on the removal of "the most dangerous of the undocumented immigrants among us." That emphasis, she said, "seems to be a reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem" of illegal immigration.

On another controversial topic, Lynch, the top federal prosecutor for parts of New York City and Long Island, said that current National Security Agency intelligence-gathering programs are "constitutional and effective." She said she hopes Congress will renew three expiring provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the FBI to obtain search warrants and communications intercepts in intelligence cases.

Lynch made her remarks at a generally cordial Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a likely prelude to her swift approval as the nation's first black female attorney general. The event was the first confirmation proceeding for any of President Barack Obama's nominees since Republicans took control of the Senate this month.

Lynch, a daughter of the segregated South, was accompanied at the hearing by about 30 family members and friends. Among them were her father, who is a retired minister, her husband and several members of her college sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, wearing their trademark red.

Settling into the witness chair for what promised to be a long day of questioning, Lynch promised a fresh relationship with law enforcement and Congress.

"I pledge to all of you and to the American people that I will fulfill my responsibilities with integrity and independence," she told a panel led by Republicans who say Attorney General Eric Holder has been too willing to follow President Barack Obama's political agenda.

"You're not Eric Holder, are you?" said Texas Republican John Cornyn, one of the current attorney general's most persistent critics.

"No senator," she responded with a smile.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican and committee chairman, made a similar point in the opening moments of the hearing. He said the department is "deeply politicized. But that's what happens when the attorney general of the United States views himself, in his own words, as the president's `wingman.'"

Grassley asked first about immigration, and he said the president's actions amounted to rewriting the law rather than enforcing it.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., returned to the subject and asked Lynch if a person who entered the country illegally would have a civil right to citizenship, a claim he said Holder has asserted.

She said that for someone not born in the country, citizenship is a privilege to be earned, and that for immigrants entering the country illegally it is not part of a "panoply of civil rights" guaranteed by the Constitution.

Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is widely expected to win confirmation easily, if only because Republicans are so eager for Holder's tenure to end. He has been a lightning rod for conservative criticism, clashing with Republicans and becoming the first sitting attorney general held in contempt of Congress.

In testimony delivered before she was questioned, Lynch said that if confirmed she would focus on combating terrorism and cybercrime and would protect the vulnerable from criminal predators.

And she was at pains to promise what Republican critics demanded in advance.

"I look forward to fostering a new and improved relationship with this committee, the United States Senate and the entire United States Congress, a relationship based on mutual respect and constitutional balance," she said.

Holder also battled the perception from critics that he aligned himself more with protesters of police violence than with members of law enforcement, a charge he and the Justice Department have strongly denied - but one that resonated in the aftermath of high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers.

In her prepared testimony, Lynch promised a fresh start in that relationship, too.

"Few things have pained me more than the recent reports of tension and division between law enforcement and the communities we serve," Lynch said, pledging to "work to strengthen the vital relationships" if confirmed.

Lynch's hearing comes amid a nationwide spotlight on police tactics in the wake of deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers, as well as the slaying last month of two officers in New York City. It's an issue Lynch, 55, is deeply familiar with.

Lynch helped prosecute the New York City police officers who severely beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. Her office in New York is currently leading a civil rights investigation into the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last summer.

Lynch has been the top prosecutor since 2010 for a district that includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, a role she also held from 1999 to 2001.

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