Vanita Gupta Is Biden’s Associate Attorney General. Who Is She?

Biden described her as ‘one of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America’.

Published
A daughter of Indian immigrants, Vanita Gupta will be the first woman of colour to serve as the US Associate Attorney General.
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President-elect Joe Biden has nominated notable Indian-American civil rights attorney, Vanita Gupta, as Associate Attorney General, the third highest ranking position at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“As associate attorney general, the number three job at the department, I nominate Vanita Gupta. A woman I've known for some time. One of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America,” said Biden.

A daughter of Indian immigrants, Vanita Gupta will be the first woman of colour to serve as the US Associate Attorney General.

A Well-Known Civil Rights Attorney

“At every step, with every case, she fought for greater equity and the right to right the wrongs of a justice system where they existed,” Biden said about Gupta.

Vanita Gupta graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received her law degree from New York University School of Law.

She then started her career at the National Association of Coloured People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund and then went on to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). After that, she shifted to the Justice Department during the Obama-Biden administration where she led the civil rights division.

During that stint, she was put in charge of investigating the abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities that suffered from violence and racial injustice.

Gupta said she is, “Humbled and honoured to return to the Department of Justice.”

“It is an institution that I love so, so dearly...and to once again work alongside the exceptional women and men, who everyday defend the Constitution, enforce our federal laws and seek to create a more perfect union with deep integrity and without political interference,” she added.

Gupta caught national attention when as a newly-minted lawyer for NAACP, she won the release of 38 people, most of them African-Americans, who had been wrongly convicted by all-white juries on drug charges in Texas and also got them $6 million as compensation.

A Voice for Immigrants

While accepting Biden's nomination, Gupta recalled her experience with bigotry and racism.

"One day, I was sitting in a McDonald's restaurant with my sister, mother, and grandmother. As we ate our meals, a group of skinheads at the next table began shouting ethnic slurs and throwing food at us until we had to leave the restaurant,” she said.

“That feeling never left me of what it means to be made to feel unsafe because of who you are," said Gupta.

Currently, she is serving as president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 human rights organisations.

She has dedicated her career to protecting and advancing democracy and the civil rights of all Americans, especially immigrants and people of colour.

In June of 2020, as Black Lives Matter protests took to the streets to fight race inequality in America, Gupta delivered a forceful testimony calling for ‘shrinking the footprint of the criminal legal system in Black and brown peoples’ lives’.

“This moment of reckoning requires leaders, together with communities, to envision a new paradigm of public safety, that respects the rights of all people. That means not just changing policing practices and culture, but ultimately shrinking the footprint of the criminal legal system in black and brown people’s lives,” she said.

Gupta will now have to be confirmed for her new post by the Senate.

She promised an activist role for the Justice Department, which will be headed by Merrick Garland, an appellate court judge whose nomination for the Supreme Court by Obama had been scuttled by the Republican-controlled Senate.

(With inputs from PTI, IANS and American Bazaar)

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