As Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, answered questions Tuesday, Jan. 10, before Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C., pro-immigrant groups sent one email after another to the media blasting his record — a record they decry as racist and a danger to those in the country who are undocumented.
If confirmed, Sessions would be responsible for enforcing federal law in a broad range of areas including immigration, criminal justice, civil and voting rights, LGBT equality, gender equality, and counterterrorism.
In his initial statement, and when pressed by senators on his record, Sessions repeatedly emphasized he would respect and follow existing laws. But pro-immigrant groups are worried and scared of his capacity to influence and enforce immigration policy.
“It is a disgrace that Sen. Jeff Sessions, an avowed extremist, has been tapped to lead our nation’s judicial system. Deemed too racist to be a federal judge in 1986, Jeff Sessions is still too racist in 2017 to be America’s next Attorney General,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).
“Sen. Sessions has been an adamant supporter of extreme views on immigration, criminal justice, and civil liberties for the past two decades, especially as it relates to people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. Sessions’ staunch opposition to even basic reforms and protections makes him a threat to all Americans,” she said.
Sessions has consistently opposed comprehensive immigration reform. He supported Alabama’s HB 56, a law that stripped legal protections from immigrants, encouraged racial profiling, and deterred immigrant children from attending school. He also voted for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and opposed a law providing workplace discrimination protections for LGBT people.
“At a time when racial tensions are high, hate crimes are on the rise and white supremacists feel emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, we cannot entrust that (protection of the rights and liberties of all Americans) to someone who has made a career of systematically marginalizing and disenfranchising African Americans, Muslims, immigrants, gays and lesbians and women,” stated Kamal Essaheb, policy and advocacy director at the National Immigration Law Center.
Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne, on the other hand, praised the nominee.
“Jeff Session’s ethical nature, dedication to public service, & commitment to the law were on full display in today’s hearing,” he tweeted.
Supervisors Create Office to Protect Immigrants
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis was also tweeting Tuesday, with a decidedly different take on immigration.
“It’s official! We created an Office of Immigrant Affairs today!” she messaged Tuesday afternoon.
With a vote of 4-1, the Board of Supervisors approved this Office which, among other things, will provide immigrants with referrals to services including legal counsel. Last December the Supervisors approved $3 million in county money over two years for a fund to help pay for immigrants’ legal aid.
Los Angeles county is home to nearly 3.5 million immigrants.
Outside the board’s chambers, pro- and anti-immigrant groups kept things hot amidst the cold, rainy day in Los Angeles.
“America First!” “Don’t give American money to illegals!” “America for America!” a man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat said repeatedly. He was joined by several others wearing T-shirts with the slogan “A Stolen Life” and pictures of victims of crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants.
“We are under siege in the state of California,” said another woman who was part of the protest that at times clashed with another group that showed up to support Solis’ proposal.
“The County and Sheriff’s Department should immediately take concrete steps to protect residents from the dire economic, emotional, and social impacts of deportations by not using any resources, facilities, or personnel to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law,” said Shiu-Ming Cheer, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).
Solis said that as Trump’s inauguration approaches “I want to remind our communities that the county will continue to stand against hate and provide exceptional aid for our immigrant individuals.”
Ready to Rally
Several unions and pro-immigrant groups plan to rally for immigrants and oppose Trump in separate events this weekend in downtown Los Angeles.
On Saturday, Jan. 14, a multi-ethnic coalition of organizations plan to rally with Korean Drummers. Vallenato and cumbia musicians, along with poetry and performance artists, will appear at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes.
On Sunday, Jan. 15, another set of organizations under the motto “Stop the Trump-Pence Regime Before it Starts” will gather at 2 p.m. at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Broadway Street in for a march that will conclude at LA City Hall.
The Saturday rally starts at 11 a.m. at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For information about the Sunday march, visit https://refusefascism.org/protests-and-events/