Attorney Susan Kim DeClercq, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be a federal judge in Michigan, detailed her adoption and immigration to the U.S. in emotional remarks at her first nomination hearing Wednesday.
DeClercq said that, as an infant, she had been left on the steps of a hospital in Seoul, South Korea, and was adopted and raised by a single mother in the U.S.
“I’m very proud of being an immigrant,” DeClercq told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’ve always been very aware of how different my life would have been had that not happened and the incredible opportunities that this country has given to me.”
Biden nominated DeClercq last month to the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. If she is confirmed, she would become the first federal judge of East Asian heritage in Michigan, replacing Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis, who was elevated to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
DeClercq thanked both her biological and adoptive mothers, telling the senators, “I am acutely aware that I could not have the life or opportunities that I have had without both of these remarkable women.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, praised DeClercq as “another example of immigrants coming to this country to create a better life” and of the “appreciation we have for our country that afforded us opportunities we never would have otherwise had.”
Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., also commended DeClercq, describing her life as “an amazing story” emblematic of how immigration has positively shaped the U.S. Durbin, whose mother was an immigrant from Lithuania, said, “immigration has made America what it is today.”
DeClercq said her immigration story was the impetus for her law career, much of which has been in public service and civil rights.
“I deeply appreciate not only the country but the government, which was why I joined the Department of Justice. And for me, it’s always been about equality and justice, and I think that that is part of the immigrant experience,” she told the panel.
DeClercq has been the director and counsel of special investigations at Ford Motor Co. since last year. Before that, she was an assistant U.S attorney for Eastern Michigan for 18 years.