A Deplorable Choice to Head the Justice Department

A Deplorable Choice to Head the Justice Department

By Adela de la Torre, NILC communications director
DECEMBER 5, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump may not have put any official policies in place yet, but his first steps as our nation’s next leader should send chills down the spine of anyone who believes in justice and equality.

Over the past few weeks, the incoming administration has announced its nominees to head the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, and it has named some of the people who will help guide strategy within the White House. These individuals will be primarily responsible for shaping our nation’s priorities over the next four years. But the personal history that each of these appointees brings to their job makes it highly doubtful that all of us living here in the U.S., regardless of where we were born, will be treated equally under the incoming administration.

Take, for example, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the nominee for attorney general (who heads the Dept. of Justice). Sessions has gone through a Senate confirmation process before—and he failed it. In June 1986, the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose majority was Republican, voted to reject his nomination by Ronald Reagan to be a federal district judge in Alabama. It was Sessions’ history of making racist remarks that sank his nomination.

Sessions has not done anything in the intervening years to lead anyone to believe that he has changed his perspective or rhetoric. In 2006, he argued that Dominican immigrants have almost nothing to contribute to the United States. In 2011, he dismissed the humanitarian crisis created by Alabama’s anti-immigrant law as simply an “unpleasant consequence” of the law.

The attorney general, our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is charged with protecting the constitutional rights of all people, regardless of what they look like, how they identify, where they were born, or how much money they have. Sessions has proven time and time again that he does not have the character or judgment necessary to ensure that justice is truly applied equally.

The Senate has an important role to play in ensuring that those appointed to lead the nation are capable of doing so. Our senators are charged with carefully examining the record of each person nominated by President-elect Trump and determining whether they are capable of carrying out the responsibilities of the roles for which they’ve been selected.

Sessions clearly is not an appropriate choice to head the Justice Dept. The Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee did the right thing 30 years ago by refusing even to send his nomination for a federal judgeship to the Senate floor, thus killing it. Our tolerance for hateful rhetoric and divisive speech should not be higher today than it was then.