The Judiciary

It’s impossible to heal the nation with Sessions as AG

Getty Images

On election night, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to be the “president for all Americans,” that it was time to “bind the wounds of division.” These were necessary and welcomed words after a campaign that was exceedingly bitter and brutal. The country needed healing and the president-elect, following in the tradition of those before him, promised to do away with partisan resentments in favor of national reconciliation.

Unfortunately, in the two months since his victory, Trump’s words and his promises of post-electoral comity have given way to a parade of extremist comments and actions the likes of which we have not seen a newly elected president convey in modern history.

Nowhere is this more obvious and more dangerous than in the list of Cabinet nominees that Trump has put forward to the Senate for confirmation. Trump’s candidates to run vital agencies include a nominee for secretary of the Department of Education who has waged a lifelong campaign against public schools, a nominee for secretary of the Labor Department who has argued against increasing the minimum wage and against overtime rules that benefit working families, a nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator who doesn’t believe that our federal government should have a role in protecting our environment, and a candidate for Energy secretary who had promised to abolish — the Department of Energy.

As troubling as these nominations are, however, perhaps nothing is more disturbing than the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be the attorney general of the United States.

Sessions’s entire public career — as a U.S. attorney, a state attorney general and most recently as a U.S. senator — has been characterized by an unabashed hostility toward civil rights. What’s more, Sessions has a troubling and well-chronicled history of expressing views that reflect racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments.

{mosads}As the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in the 1980s, Sessions conducted himself in ways that were racially insensitive, if not nakedly hostile, to African-Americans and other minorities.

In 1985, in a case that not only sought to undermine voting rights but harkened back to the ugliest chapters of racial disenfranchisement in the American South, Sessions prosecuted three civil rights workers on dubious charges of voter fraud. The defendants were found not guilty, but not before their reputations were ruined and a chilling message was sent to voting rights advocates in the state that their actions would be subject to unreasonable and unfair scrutiny from Sessions’s office.

Such was the record of discrimination that Sessions amassed as U.S. attorney that when he was nominated to serve as a Federal District Court Judge in 1986, a bipartisan majority on the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination.

Slightly more than 30 years later, little has changed about Sessions’s views that would make him worthy of one of the most important positions in the federal government.

Notably, he has been the most dangerous ally of the anti-immigrant movement in Congress since his election in 1996.

For Latino families in the United States, the attorney general wields power over a number of issues critical to their well-being and progress. From protecting voting rights and prosecuting housing discrimination, to safeguarding immigrant rights and prosecuting hate crimes, the attorney general must be willing to use the full power of the law to protect our liberties.

At nearly every turn in his more than four decades in politics and in the courts, Sessions has failed to demonstrate any interest in protecting the most vulnerable among us. Instead, his is a career that prefers the dark recesses of our nation’s history of racial discrimination, rather than the light of civil and human rights.

On election night, President-elect Trump said he was reaching out to all Americans “to work together and unify our great country.” That is a laudable goal but one that is impossible to countenance with Jeff Sessions as our next attorney general.

Jose Calderon is president of the Hispanic Federation, the nation’s premier Latino nonprofit membership organization.

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

Tags Donald Trump Jeff Sessions
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video