Yesterday, the Senate Gang of 8 introduced its long-awaited bipartisan immigration bill. Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on the bill, with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The hearing will probably double as our first chance to see the anti-immigrant “Gang of Hate” in action on the Senate bill. And the leader of that gang will be Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
Sessions has extremely close relations with the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant groups: the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR.) The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Sessions’ home state of Alabama, has long designated FAIR as a hate group. Last August, SPLC wrote a post titled, How Do We Know FAIR is a Hate Group? Let Us Count the Ways:
The bottom line is, FAIR doesn’t peddle facts; it peddles hate. Its lobbying and legal efforts – such as the campaign that led to Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56 – are based on fomenting fear, on exploiting racial tensions and economic anxieties to convince people that they had better not let any more “aliens” into their country.
FAIR founder John Tanton, a man with a lengthy record of friendly correspondence with Holocaust deniers, a former Klan lawyer and leading white nationalist thinkers, has repeatedly suggested that racial conflict will be the outcome of immigration. In 1998, he told a reporter that whites would inevitably develop a racial consciousness because “most people don’t want to disappear into the dustbin of history,” and added that once whites did become racially conscious, the result would be “the war of each against all.”
Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, is no better. “Immigrants don’t come all church-loving, freedom-loving, God-fearing,” he said in 1997. “Many of them hate America, hate everything that the United States stands for. Talk to some of these Central Americans.”
Jeff Sessions is very tight with FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA. The groups have given him awards. Over the years, he has repeatedly quoted their so-called “studies” and often shows up at their events, like FAIR’s “Feet to the Fire” radio row. NumbersUSA was gleeful when Sessions ascended to a leading role in the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2009, calling him “the No. 1 champion for the American workers on immigration issues.” Last year, Sessions entered a statement into the Congressional Record congratulating NumbersUSA for its fifteen years of existence. Put this all together and one thing becomes clear: Sessions is the top dog in Congress when it comes to fighting immigration reform, and he does it hand in hand with groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA.
Sessions is a firm believer in the policy of “self-deportation.” He touted Alabama’s self-deportation law, HB 56, which was written by FAIR’s former general counsel, Kris Kobach. When that law passed in 2011, Sessions welcomed the “unpleasant, unfortunate consequences” that HB 56 unleashed on immigrants, families, and school children. And, of course, Sessions voted against the DREAM Act back in 2010.
Now that there’s a real bipartisan reform bill, it will be Sessions’ moment to assert his role as the leader of the “Gang of Hate.” He and his anti-immigrant cohorts are going to be in overdrive, with every comment and statement designed to kill immigration reform. And they are not beholden to the truth. Yesterday, Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski reported that one of Sessions top staffers, his chief counsel Danielle Cutrona, was pushing false rumors about details in the immigration bill.
Of course, every word Sessions utters just reinforces the anti-immigrant brand that the GOP has been trying to shed, and puts another nail into the coffin of the GOP’s demographic future. But Sessions just can’t help himself.
The big question is which other GOP Senators will join this “Gang of Hate”. We fully expect it will include Republicans Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Ted Cruz (TX) and John Cornyn (TX, who will try to play both sides, but really wants to kill reform.)
Whoever else joins, one things is clear: Jeff Sessions is their leader.