Sen. Sessions Scorns Principles and Laws He Would Be Charged with Enforcing as Attorney General
THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Kamal Essaheb, NILC director of policy and advocacy
JANUARY 10, 2017
When President-elect Donald Trump nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions to oversee the Department of Justice, he took a major first step toward making good on his promise that his administration will target communities of color for criminalization and disenfranchisement.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will seek to determine whether Sessions is fit to serve as our nation’s next attorney general, but the senator’s record speaks for itself. His disdain for the very principles America was founded on is well documented. He has consistently demonstrated contempt for the diversity that makes America great. He has faithfully assaulted fundamental notions of fairness and equality under the law in both the courtroom and the Senate.
Throughout his career, Sessions has abused his power and used his position to manipulate the law and further a nativist agenda, directly targeting communities of color. As a senator, Sessions has repeatedly opposed legislation that would make our nation more equal and more just, including many policies that as attorney general he would be responsible for enforcing.
He has voted against proposed protections for some of our nation’s most vulnerable groups, including the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act, which extended federal hate-crime protections to women, LGBT people, and people with disabilities—hate-crime protections that the Department of Justice now enforces.
He has consistently blocked legislation that would acknowledge and affirm the many benefits immigrants bring to our country. He strongly opposed allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary work authorization and voted against the DREAM Act, which would have provided a way for immigrants who came to the United States as children to earn their citizenship. He also voted against the Senate’s recent bipartisan immigration reform bill, which would have given more protections to undocumented individuals already living in the country, most of whom have lived in our communities for over a decade.
The Justice Department has the responsibility to vigorously and vigilantly protect the rights and liberties of all Americans. But how can a man who has said that the NAACP and the ACLU were “communist-inspired” and “un-American” organizations “because they forced civil rights down the throats of people” lead the agency charged with upholding the very rights he has so consistently denigrated?
At a time when racial tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise, and white supremacists feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, the country cannot afford to have an attorney general who has made a career of systematically marginalizing and disenfranchising African Americans, Muslims, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and women. He is simply the wrong choice.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee must be resolute in holding Sessions accountable for statements he’s made and actions he’s taken that are indisputably discriminatory and racist. The committee must remember that it represents the interests and wellbeing of all Americans, including those caught in the crosshairs of the incoming administration.