Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions has just been nominated by Donald Trump to be the next attorney general.
Sessions’ own views have already come through in certain aspects of Trump’s campaign. After becoming the first sitting senator to endorse Trump during the primary, he advised Trump on immigration policy and chaired his national security advisory committee.
Now, if Sessions is confirmed by the Senate, he’ll become the head of the Department of Justice. Here’s what he thinks about three key issues.
Sessions is an immigration hardliner, just like Trump. During his 20 years in the Senate, he has opposed almost every immigration bill that includes a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. He was vehemently against the 2013 “Gang of Eight” bill which his website says “eviscerated immigration enforcement [and] opened up welfare and citizenship to millions of illegals aliens.”
Sessions is also skeptical of legal immigration; in a 2015 op-ed in the Washington Post, he argued, “What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together.”
As a potential future head of the Department of Justice, Sessions will likely face renewed scrutiny over past comments that barred him from a federal judgeship in 1986. At the time, the Senate Judiciary Committee (of which he is now a member), heard testimony that he had called the N.A.A.C.P. and other civil rights groups “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.” Someone also testified that Sessions had “said he believed the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he learned its members smoked marijuana,” which Sessions said was a joke.
Sessions denied some of the allegations of what he had said, but did admit he referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “piece of intrusive legislation.” (Sessions lost the judgeship after these hearings, but it didn’t derail his career, and he was elected to Congress in 1996.)
Although Sessions voted to extend the Voting Rights Act when it was last reauthorized by Congress, in 2013, he praised the Supreme Court decision invalidating aspects of it. “If you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin,” he said.
Sessions opposed the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the country. “When a society begins to strike its shared faith and traditions from every place of respect, a new faith always takes its place. Where the family is not the center of American life, government is,” he wrote. “Today’s ruling is part of a continuing effort to secularize, by force and intimidation, a society that would not exist but for the faith which inspired people to sail across unknown waters and trek across unknown frontiers.” Ten years ago, he also discussed his opposition to the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which ruled all sodomy laws unconstitutional. The ruling “divorced morality from law,” Sessions said. “Lawrence was troubling, with far-reaching ramifications.”
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