Eminent Indian-American civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta (46) has been confirmed by the US Senate as associate attorney general, making her the first woman of colour to occupy the position. Gupta is the first civil rights lawyer to serve at one of the top three positions at the Department of Justice.
A graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law, Gupta has had an illustrious career in civil rights law, starting off at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and has dealt extensively with issues around immigration and mass incarceration. In October 2014, under President Barack Obama, she was appointed as the United States Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
In January this year, President Joe Biden nominated Gupta to serve as the United States’ Associate Attorney General. Last month, a hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss her nomination.
"I have nominated two key Justice Department nominees — Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke — who are eminently qualified, highly respected lawyers who have spent their entire careers fighting to advance racial equity and justice,” Biden said. “Vanita and Kristen have the experience and the skill necessary to advance our administration's priorities to root out unconstitutional policing and reform our criminal justice system, and they deserve to be confirmed," he added.
Her nomination was met with staunch opposition from Republicans who pressed her over previous tweets critical of them, especially Donald Trump. They accused her of being an "extreme partisan advocate" at the confirmation hearing last month.
However, it was Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who opposed her party colleagues to support Gupta. With her vote, the Democrats had the 51 votes they needed, leading to the historic confirmation on Wednesday.
Upon her win, Biden congratulated Gupta for making history as the first woman of colour to serve as associate attorney general and further urged the Senate to confirm Kristen Clarke.
“She will bring a long overdue perspective to our federal law enforcement agency,” says Senate Majority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, who played a key role in her confirmation.
It is a proud moment for the Indian-American community, many of whom took to social media to celebrate the historic achievement. Gupta is the daughter of Indian immigrants. Her father Rajiv L Gupta is an Indian-American businessman and the current chairman of Aptiv, an auto parts company. She is married to Chinh Q Le, the legal director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, with whom she has two sons. Many hope that her win ushers in sweeping reforms and improves the representation of the Asian community in the American government.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)