David Ortiz’s name was invoked during Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing

David Ortiz is pictured as he leans on a team trainer while stretching on the field before a game.
David Ortiz is pictured as he leans on a team trainer while stretching on the field before a Red Sox game in September. –Jim Davis / The Boston Globe

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If bets had been placed on which Boston athlete would be name-dropped during the confirmation hearings of Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, the smart money may have gone toward the president-elect’s golf buddy Tom Brady.

But no.

On just the first day of the Senate confirmation hearings Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, mentioned recently retired Red Sox slugger David Ortiz during his line of questions to Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general nominee.

“We have a vibrant Dominican community, who look at Big Papi, David Ortiz, swinging his bat for the Red Sox, and wonder why you said, ‘Almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us,'” Whitehouse said, referring to a 2006 Senate floor speech by the Alabama Republican, who is known for his hard-line stance on immigration.

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Sessions’s full speech, available on his website, included this passage:

“Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society. They come in because some other family member of a qualified relation is here as a citizen or even a green card holder. That is how they get to come. They are creating a false document to show these are relatives or their spouses and they are married when it is not so.”

During the hearing Tuesday, Whitehouse says he has heard from Latino constituents in Rhode Island who are worried about government raids breaking up their families and from police chiefs who say Sessions’s policies as attorney general would disrupt “law enforcement priorities” and “community relations.”

With regards to the Dominican Republic, Sessions said he was speaking from experience visiting the country, citing a local official who he said told him “there’s a good bit of fraud” and that the “immigration flow was not on a basis of skills.”

“The immigration flow from almost all of our countries, frankly, is based on family connection and other visas, rather than a skill-based program, more like Canada has today,” Session said. “And that’s all I intended to be saying there.”

“Please don’t see that as a diminishment or a criticism of the people of the Dominican Republic,” he added.

As a Harvard University professor Paul May recently wrote, Canada moved to a points-based immigration system in the 1960s, and thus accepts more immigrants based on workforce skills, rather than family ties.

Sessions said he would like the United States move in that direction.

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That said, as May noted, Canada also “accepts far more immigrants legally than most Western nations” and faces fewer immigration challenges due to its geography.

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