While Sessions served as the U.S.’s top lawyer, he implemented a long list of harsh and unpopular immigration policies - such as the cancelling of DACA, family separation, dismantling the asylum system, defending the Muslim bans and reshaping the immigration courts.
- Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions served as one of the organized anti-immigrant movement’s most strident allies during his time in Congress.
- Sessions became Attorney General of Alabama in 1994 and was elected to the Senate in 1996, where he served as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest from 2015-2017 when he was confirmed as U.S. Attorney General.
- The former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 due to racist remarks he made to and about African Americans, the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Voting Rights Act. Thomas Figures, a black Assistant U.S. Attorney who had worked for Sessions, testified that the former U.S. Attorney called him “boy” on multiple occasions and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying that he thought Klan members were “OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”
- The former Alabama Senator rose to prominence as an advocate of ruthless immigration enforcement measures, self-deportation, drastic reductions in legal immigration, revocation of birthright citizenship and attacks on dreamers.
- Several anti-immigrant groups have honored Sessions for his role in obstructing immigration reform legislation in the Senate, and he often used his position as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest to invite nativist demagogues to testify before Congress, in an attempt to control the narrative around immigration reform.
- Jeff Sessions is known for his rejection by the Judiciary Committee for the federal bench and his extreme and unpopular views on immigration.
- In 2016, Sessions co-authored a letter to Republicans in which he referred to immigration as a “National Security Issue” which affected “every aspect” of his constituents’ lives and encouraged his party to stop current immigration flows: “This autopilot immigration flow is not only extreme, but ahistorical.”
- Sessions supports revoking – not just ending – birthright citizenship and in response to 2016 Presidential candidate Trump’s policy proposal to revoke the 14th amendment Sessions said: “This absolutely is not an extreme position.”
- In October 2016, Sessions told CNN that under a Trump Administration, undocumented immigrants would have to self-deport: “But you basically would have to self-deport….Many people that proposed this over the years.”
- During the 2016 presidential campaign Sessions defended Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.: “We have a toxic ideology, hopefully very small within Islam…And we need to figure out a better way to identify that.”
- During a 2006 Senate debate on an immigration bill proposed by then President George W. Bush, Sessions disparaged immigrants from the Dominican Republic: “Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us and that would indicate their likely success in our society.”
Attacks on DACA
- While Sessions sat at the head of the Justice Department the former U.S. Attorney General said he would take “every lawful measure” to end DACA.
- Less than two weeks after the DAPA repeal, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 10 other state Attorneys General sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to sue the federal government if DACA was not repealed by September 5th.
- In an interview with Fox and Friends, Sessions seemed to endorse Paxton’s attack on DACA, stating, “I like that states and localities are holding the federal government to account and expecting us to do our responsibility to the state and locals, and that’s to enforce the law.”
- During an October 2017 Justice Department Oversight Hearing, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, refused to deny DoJ’s coordination with Texas to force the end of DACA through backdoor legal assaults. However, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had already confirmed the coordination a few weeks prior.
- On September 5, 2017 President Trump tasked Sessions with announcing the DACA program’s rescission. During his remarks the Attorney General said DACA’s end would “further economically the lives of millions” of Americans. In response to a request of evidence to support this claim, DoJ provided CIS authored reports.
- During remarks at the Heritage Foundation’s Legal Strategy Forum Sessions criticized recent legal action taken by states and localities to protect DACA recipients:“As you all know well, some judges have failed to respect our representatives and Congress and the Executive Branch. One particularly striking example was the federal judge in Brooklyn who heard argument on a challenge to the federal government’s wind down of DACA.”
- In prior commentary, Sessions had publicly contradicted President Trump’s stance on Dreamers, stating “the only thing I can say is what the law says. If you enter the country unlawfully, you are subject to being deported.” During his confirmation hearing to be Attorney General, Sessions, undermined President Trump’s recent softening on DACA: “The Department of Justice I think would have no objection to have a decision to ban that order because it is very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally.”
- As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and National Interest during the 114th Congress, then-Senator Sessions held multiple hearings attacking former President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, where he called staff members from anti-immigrant groups like CIS to testify as many as 8 times.
- In 2015, Sessions released his second version of a timeline titled “How the Obama Administration Bypassed Congress to Dismantle Immigration Enforcement.” Included in the timeline was the Obama administration’s decision to sue Arizona over SB 1070, Alabama over a similar law in 2011, and their announcement of DACA.
- In 2014, Sessions worked with Texas Senator Ted Cruz behind the scenes to pit hardliners in the House like Steve King against moderate Republicans in an effort to derail an emergency DHS appropriations bill. The House ultimately capitulated to Sessions,’ Cruz’s, and King’s demands, and even voted on an amendment offered by Rep. Blackburn to defund DACA.
- During the debate on the Senate’s 2013 immigration reform bill, Sessions worked with the anti-immigrant lobby to pressure the House into not bringing the bill to the floor. Included in the version of the bill that passed the Senate was a provision for undocumented youth to earn a path to citizenship.
Additional Attacks on Immigrants
- As a U.S. Senator, Sessions frequently cited and promoted false statistics and dubious ‘research’ from CIS, and regularly called the group’s staff to testify at congressional hearings.
- Sessions attended FAIR’s annual immigrant bashing “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event as recently as 2016.
- In June of 2016, Sessions spoke at a reception at the National Press Club organized by CIS.
- In 2013, as Congress was considering another bipartisan immigration compromise, the Senator and three Republican House members joined a CIS teleconference to argue against it.
- In July 2013 Sessions, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Steve King spoke at a rally organized by a front group of FAIR.
- In 2013, he hired then-CIS staff member Janice Kephart as temporary counsel while the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the comprehensive immigration reform bill S.744.
Awards, Contributions, and Praise from Anti-Immigrant Groups:
- Sessions received funding from Tanton’s political action committee USIRPAC in 2008 and 2014.
- In 2007, after a bipartisan immigration reform plan fell apart, Sessions spoke at a FAIR board meeting, where he thanked them for helping to stir up opposition to the bill and was honored by the group with its “Franklin Society Award.” These details were omitted from documents he turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his AG confirmation proceedings.
- When asked by Senator Blumenthal during his confirmation hearing whether he would give back the awards, Sessions declined.
- In 2015, Sessions received the “Keeper of the Flame” award from Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
- In 2014, Sessions was commended by the anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center.
- During a meet-and-greet event at the 2015 CPAC, Sessions publicly praised Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney.
- In a 2012 floor speech, Sessions commemorated anti-immigrant group NumbersUSA’s 15th anniversary.
- In a 2009 press release from NumbersUSA, Sessions was named the “No. 1 champion for the American worker on immigration issues.”
- In 2008, NumbersUSA awarded Sessions with its Defender of the Rule of Law Award.
Attacks on TPS
- After a judge ruled to stop the Trump Administration from terminating TPS for select countries, Sessions, who served as Attorney General at the time, heavily criticized the ruling, calling it “judicial encroachment.”