Former Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long been one of the loudest voices against immigrants and immigration reform. When he was in the Senate, Sessions took every opportunity to denounce immigrants in incendiary terms and oppose immigration reform legislation. He also has a record of making remarks against African-Americans that were so racist it cost him a federal judgeship. Sessions’ positions aren’t surprising. Sessions has long been allied with an anti-immigrant movement that includes hate groups and white nationalists.
Sessions as Attorney General
In his short time as Attorney General, Sessions has already made his mark attacking and demonizing immigrants. He has:
- Maneuvered the Department of Justice to focus resources on immigration prosecutions and enforcement, and directed prosecutors to target immigrants aggressively.
- Repeatedly tried to defund so-called “sanctuary cities”. In April, Sessions sent a letter to nine jurisdictions threatening to cut off federal funds. All nine jurisdictions, however – like just about every city, county, and state in America – were already in compliance with the law. For months, Sessions wouldn’t say how the government defined “sanctuary cities,” leaving officials very confused about whether or not they were in compliance.
- After Trump’s executive order against sanctuary cities was blocked by the courts, Sessions appeared to capitulate. Later, however, it was revealed that buried inTrump’s budget proposal is a proposed change that it mandates compliance with ICE detainers.
- Sessions has attacked local and state governments for policies that he believes are too friendly to immigrants, even though the policies that he prefers have repeatedly been deemed unconstitutional.
- Sessions has on multiple occasions expressed support for ending DACA for Dreamers.
Sessions as a Senator
In the Senate, Jeff Sessions opposed every pro-immigrant bill that came his way, including bills that created a path to citizenship for the undocumented, bills that dealt with legal immigration and brought more science/math/tech workers to the US, and two versions of the DREAM Act that would have provided status for young immigrants.
In 2007, Sessions did get one immigration bill passed – a piece of legislation which banned for 10 years federal contractors who hired undocumented immigrants. Dana Milbank once compared Sessions to George Wallace after Sessions opposed the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill at every turn.
During the 2013 Senate immigration reform bill fight, Sessions:
- Repeatedly denounced the Gang of 8 bill as being the tool of “special interests” (even though Sessions himself is a favorite tool of anti-immigrant special interests;
- Complained that the 10-year CBO score for the bill wasn’t an accurate predictor of its total costs (leading the CBO to re-score the bill for 20 years, which found additional economic benefits to passing the bill and immigration reform);
- Repeatedly complained that the Senate was moving too fast on the bill; Sessions tried to slow it down with every step;
- Sessions offered nearly 50 poison-pill-type amendments to the bill and sent daily, sometimes hourly, alerts highlighting perceived flaws in the legislation;
- Said that the bill was “gobbledygook” and too long to read even as he claimed that the legislation was unworkable and harmful;
- Expressed unhappiness that immigration reform might allow immigrants to someday improve their quality of life. Sessions said immigrants would “be able to immediately apply for much better jobs than they currently have…Maybe they were working at a restaurant part time. Now they’re going to be truck drivers, heavy-equipment operators competing at the factories and plants and we’ve got an unemployment rate that’s very high.”
Sessions has also said that immigrants who are racially profiled are just “criminals” telling “marvelous stories”, opposed a resolution honoring Cesar Chavez, opposed a version of the Violence Against Women Act, opposed a bipartisan human trafficking bill, mocked those who used food stamps (“why don’t we just pay for your clothes?”), and likened immigrants to terrorists and child molesters.
Sessions’ ugly racial history
Sessions, of course, has such an ugly racial history that it once cost him a federal judgeship, making him only the second person in 50 years to have his appointment blocked by the Senate. Here are some of the alleged comments that Sessions has been in trouble for:
- He once “joked” about how he used to think the KKK were ok until he found out some of them were “pot smokers”
- Called the 1965 Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation”
- Called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American”
- Suggested a civil rights attorney was a race traitor for taking on a voting rights case
- Called a black official in his office “boy” and instructed him to be careful what he said to white people
- Referred to a black local government official as “the n******”
Sessions’ courtship of anti-immigrant extremism
Sessions’ extremism is underscored by his extensive ties to anti-immigrant extremists and the white nationalist John Tanton network. During his confirmation hearings, Sessions refused to denounce these extremist ties.
Sessions has close relations with the three leading anti-immigrant groups: the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS),NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR.)
FAIR and CIS are designated hate groups, andNumbersUSA has a stridently anti-immigrant agenda. They were founded by John Tanton, a known white supremacist who believed in eugenics. These associations might make some members of Congress think twice about developing a relationship with them, but clearly not Jeff Sessions.
It’s disturbing that the current Attorney General has very close ties to hate groups and white nationalists. More disturbing is that colleagues in his party and in the Trump Administration find nothing wrong with that.