On February 8th, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was confirmed as Attorney General by the Senate in a 52 to 47 vote. The confirmation of the Republican senator from Alabama put an end to an explosive nomination process riddled with racially charged actions and words. Senator Corey Booker from New Jersey actually broke tradition to testify against his fellow Senator. The sharp conservatism that Senator Sessions will be bringing to the job is worrying to many. As Attorney General, one is supposed to act as the public’s advocate and represent their interests. They are suppose to serve as the “People’s Lawyer” and people are skeptical Sessions can do all of those things. However, regardless of what people think he is or is not capable of, he is our Attorney General. To help give you a clearer picture of who he is and what he stands for, here are four things college students should know about Jeff Sessions.
Senator Jeff Sessions does not have a particularly clean record when it comes to supporting the environment. Sessions, like many far-right wing Republicans, has denied scientific evidence of humans’ role in climate change for a long time. His routine votes against legislation that is designed to protect our environment has earned him a four percent score on last year’s League of Conservation Voters’ scorecard. Most recently, in 2015, he voted for Extreme Attack on Carbon Pollution Limits for New Power Plants, an amendment that would block the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon pollution standards for newer power plants. Though the bill was vetoed by President Obama, a radical measure such as this would have put our generation’s health at risk more than the generations above us because we would be living with the effects longer than them. In addition, it would have slowed our transition to a clean energy economy, which would have limited the job market for college students pursuing work in that field.
Senator Sessions does not have a great voting record when it comes to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in our country, either. During his time as a senator in Alabama, he voted in support of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and voted against repealing the military’s past policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. As attorney general, he will be taking over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ+ law, HB2, a law that forces transgender college students, as well as any other students, to use the bathroom that matches the gender that is on their birth certificate. If he blocks the lawsuit, not only is this obviously a safety concern for transgender students in North Carolina, it becomes a safety concern for transgender students in other states that may want to pass their own version of HB2. Currently, Sessions is co-sponsoring the First Amendment Defense Act, legislation that would allow a taxpayer-funded organization to ignore laws that conflict with its religious beliefs about marriage. Due to this law, a gay couple could be denied services by a taxpayer funded adoption agency simply because the couple is comprised of people of the same gender.
Jeff Session does not fare too well when it comes to racism. He was denied a federal judge position for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama 30 years ago because of racist remarks he made. For example, it is a well known fact that he joked that his only problem with the Ku Klux Klan is the fact that they smoke pot, which was brought up when he was nominated for judgeship 30 years ago and was brought up again during his confirmation hearings for Attorney General. Sessions' attempt to put the confirmation committee at ease when he said that people think he is racist because he is from the South was thwarted by fake KKK members showing their support for him at his confirmation hearing on Feb. 7. In addition, with Sessions as Attorney General, it is likely that African American men, especially of college age, will continue to be face problems in the justice system. African American and Hispanic American citizens will continue to face harsher punishments on college campuses compared to their white counterparts, while more will not even have the chance to make it to college because of the higher rates of juvenile incarceration for both minority groups.
It is no secret that Sessions is currently one of the most anti-immigration legislators in our country. In 2014, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an anti-Muslim hate group, presented him with the “Daring the Odds: The Annie Taylor Award." A past recipient of the award is Pamela Geller, one of the most vocal anti-Muslim activists in America today. A year later, he received the “Keeper of the Flame” award from another anti-Muslim hate group, Center for Security Policy, or CPS. They are a conspiracy theorist based group, known for making accusations that jihadists are infiltrating all levels of the American government. Last year, CPS released a statement calling for a Muslim ban, which certainly stoked the pot of anti-Muslim sentiments all over this country. His ties to these anti-Muslim groups are especially troubling because of the power that he has over immigration courts, which would allow him to pick and choose who is deported. This is especially disastrous for international college students from predominately Muslim countries. Thousands of the international students that are enrolled in American colleges and universities are from countries that were a part of Trump's original ban. Many of them are unsure if a ban will be reinstated, forcing them to choose between receiving an excellent education and their families.
So will Jeff Sessions really be the “People’s Lawyer,” the person who fights for the rights of everyone? I hope he will be because if he is successful, America is successful. If he’s not, we are in for a rough four years.
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