Sikh-American, Female Attorney Could Be Change Agent DOJ Needs | Sikh Vogue

  • Edited by
  • Mar 14, 2017

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Sessions considers D.C. outsider, California conservative to clean up Civil Rights Division

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco-based attorney and a Sikh, to lead the Justice Department Civil Rights Division.

Dhillon, 48, is a veteran litigator and national committeewoman of the California Republican Party. She was previously vice chairman of the California GOP for three years. She opened the second night of the Republican National Convention in July by delivering a Sikh prayer in Punjabi, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Sikh prayer was a first for the RNC.

“Harmeet is an ideal spokeswoman. She speaks to [civil rights] eloquently.”
Later that same evening, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) formally nominated Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate for president.

Dhillon met with Sessions about the position last week. But well-connected attorneys from the past administration of President George W. Bush are also murmured to be jockeying for the job.

Dhillon’s advantage may be her outsider status — a quality Trump brought to the White House. The very fact Dhillon is not a product of the GOP Establishment in Washington may bolster her credibility as a would-be change agent at one of the the Department of Justice’s most wayward divisions.

But first she has to get past critics from on the Left — and a few on the Right.

Paul Mirengoff, like Dhillon an attorney and alumni of Dartmouth College, went so far as to call her a “dangerous candidate,” in a post on the conservative PowerLine blog. Mirengoff said the Civil Rights Division has become “ground zero in the fight over the Black Lives Matter agenda, including police practices, voting issues, and racial quotas” and is worried about some of Dhillon’s past associations.

Dhillon was a member of her local chapter of the ACLU for two years, an organization often in conflict with many conservative causes. In an exclusive interview with LifeZette, Dhillon said she joined the ACLU to help the Sikh community in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11. Some individuals targeted Sikhs, mistakenly assuming they could be terrorists.

Jim Brulte, the chairman of the California Republican Party, said Dhillon came to the assistance of her community.

“That’s just the right thing to do,” said Brulte.

Brulte, the state legislature’s former Senate minority leader, dismissed any concern about Dhillon’s conservatism.

“She’s a conservative in a city in California where’s it not impossible to be conservative, but pretty darn hard to be a conservative,” said Brulte.

Dhillon makes no apologies for fighting hate crimes, and it’s easy to understand why. In 1995, her then-husband, a Sikh doctor, was shot in the chest in New York City by an assailant who mistook him for a Hindu. He survived, but the wound took a year out of his career.

“I am a victim of hate crimes,” said Dhillon. “Hate crimes are a real thing for the Sikh community.”

But as the former president of the Federalist Society at the University of Virginia School of Law, Dhillon said she is a true conservative.

“I think it’s laughable for anyone to challenge my conservative bona fides,” she said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco-based attorney and a Sikh, to lead the Justice Department Civil Rights Division.

Dhillon, 48, is a veteran litigator and national committeewoman of the California Republican Party. She was previously vice chairman of the California GOP for three years. She opened the second night of the Republican National Convention in July by delivering a Sikh prayer in Punjabi, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Sikh prayer was a first for the RNC.

“Harmeet is an ideal spokeswoman. She speaks to [civil rights] eloquently.”
Later that same evening, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) formally nominated Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate for president.

Dhillon met with Sessions about the position last week. But well-connected attorneys from the past administration of President George W. Bush are also murmured to be jockeying for the job.

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Dhillon’s advantage may be her outsider status — a quality Trump brought to the White House. The very fact Dhillon is not a product of the GOP Establishment in Washington may bolster her credibility as a would-be change agent at one of the the Department of Justice’s most wayward divisions.

But first she has to get past critics from on the Left — and a few on the Right.

Paul Mirengoff, like Dhillon an attorney and alumni of Dartmouth College, went so far as to call her a “dangerous candidate,” in a post on the conservative PowerLine blog. Mirengoff said the Civil Rights Division has become “ground zero in the fight over the Black Lives Matter agenda, including police practices, voting issues, and racial quotas” and is worried about some of Dhillon’s past associations.

Dhillon was a member of her local chapter of the ACLU for two years, an organization often in conflict with many conservative causes. In an exclusive interview with LifeZette, Dhillon said she joined the ACLU to help the Sikh community in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11. Some individuals targeted Sikhs, mistakenly assuming they could be terrorists.

Jim Brulte, the chairman of the California Republican Party, said Dhillon came to the assistance of her community.

“That’s just the right thing to do,” said Brulte.

Brulte, the state legislature’s former Senate minority leader, dismissed any concern about Dhillon’s conservatism.

“She’s a conservative in a city in California where’s it not impossible to be conservative, but pretty darn hard to be a conservative,” said Brulte.

Dhillon makes no apologies for fighting hate crimes, and it’s easy to understand why. In 1995, her then-husband, a Sikh doctor, was shot in the chest in New York City by an assailant who mistook him for a Hindu. He survived, but the wound took a year out of his career.

“I am a victim of hate crimes,” said Dhillon. “Hate crimes are a real thing for the Sikh community.”

But as the former president of the Federalist Society at the University of Virginia School of Law, Dhillon said she is a true conservative.

“I think it’s laughable for anyone to challenge my conservative bona fides,” she said.

Dhillon graduated from Dartmouth College in 1989, where she edited the conservative Dartmouth Review. She received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1993. She was born in Chandigarh, in northern India. Her family first moved to England, then New York City, then North Carolina.

“I’ve known her for 30 years — from Dartmouth College to University of Virginia School of Law,” said LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham, “She is not only a fearless conservative, she is unfailingly fair-minded. When others are seeking to blur the meaning of the Constitution to expand government power, she will stand on the side of individual liberty.”

“As the founder of her own law firm, she is a successful female entrepreneur who supported Donald Trump long before it was fashionable,” Ingraham added.

Dhillon told LifeZette she thinks conservatives could do a better job of understanding civil rights laws and invoking them when applicable. Dhillon is currently suing the city of San Jose for a notorious anti-Trump protest at a June 2 campaign rally.

More than a dozen Trump supporters contend that San Jose police officers did not protect them from violent, egg-hurling protesters after the rally, according to the Bee.

An image of a female Trump supporter getting pelted by eggs went viral. Dhillon, who was at the rally, took up the case pro bono.

“People were bloodied,” said Dhillon. “A teenager was sucker-punched.”

One supporter says Dhillon is the right change agent for Trump because the last great civil rights attorneys from the GOP came from the administration of President Ronald Reagan. Shawn Steel, the California Republican national committeeman, said what the nation and the Trump administration need now is a “transformational figure” in the next few years.

“Harmeet is an ideal spokeswoman,” said Steel. “She speaks to [civil rights] eloquently.”

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