Jeff Sessions' appointment threatens decades of civil rights progress
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For decades, the Department of Justice has been a key ally in protecting our most fundamental rights including voting rights, anti-discrimination protections, and due process.

As Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRhode Island announces plan to pay DACA renewal fee for every 'Dreamer' in state Mich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead NAACP sues Trump for ending DACA MORE takes the helm of the Justice Department, the civil rights community watches with great concern the impact his leadership will have on these very issues.

Prior to becoming attorney general, Jeff Sessions built a political career on staunch opposition to immigration reform, voting rights, LGBT protections, and women’s rights. Sessions' views are clearly consistent with the anti-immigrant Trump movement, and he now has one of the most powerful platforms to make his vision a reality.

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As attorney general, Sessions will wield enormous power over a litany of civil rights issues that are important to communities of color. The enforcement of voting rights and other anti-discrimination statutes, all fall under his purview. In addition, we count on the Justice Department to take the lead in ensuring that police departments do not use excessive force or target minority communities in its enforcement efforts.

If the last twenty years in the Senate are any indication of how Sessions will run the Justice Department, the results for civil rights could be disastrous. Just within the last month of the Trump presidency, we have seen the administration target immigrant communities in an unprecedented way.

President Trump’s executive orders on immigration have put a religious litmus test on immigrants from parts of the Muslim world, and his threat to punish sanctuary cities is an effort to dismantle the trust between the immigrant community and local law enforcement.

Given the attorney general often has a broad mandate over how the law is enforced, Sessions could begin to push his draconian vision of immigration reform to courtrooms and law enforcement agencies across the country. 

Armed with President Trump’s executive order that ramps up immigration enforcement and targets municipalities that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sessions already has the legal mechanisms in place to destroy the way of life for undocumented immigrants currently living in the country.

Specifically, Attorney General Sessions may attempt to take legal action against sanctuary cities in an effort to force them to effectively serve as immigration agents. Civil rights advocates are concerned that he will attempt to control immigration courts by limiting access to legal counsel programs and accelerating the immigration court backlog, which would dramatically increase the number of deportations.

If that happens, immigrant families will be torn apart and the good faith relationship that presently exists between immigrants and law enforcement will be finished, making our communities less safe.

The immigration raids that began last week across the country are the latest example in this administration’s aggressive enforcement tactics.

From California to Georgia, hundreds of immigrants were detained.

Although the Trump administration has spoken of targeting only criminal immigrants, many of those apprehended were hardworking individuals who were here providing for their families. These immigrants may be some of the first victims of the Trump administration, and with Attorney General Sessions in charge of the enforcement of the law; we can expect things to get much worse.

Civil rights organizations like LULAC have stood against such anti-American policies in the past and we will continue to do so.

In fact, LULAC pledges to work with all civil rights organizations in an effort to call attention to the Trump administration's unlawful actions and make every effort to protect minority communities.

Brent Wilkes is the executive director of the League of Latin American Citizens, which advocates for the political, economic and educational rights of Hispanic Americas. Follow him on Twitter@BrentWilkes. Follow LULAC on Twitter @LULAC


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.