Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. Attorney General

Long before he joined the Trump Administration, Jeff Sessions was one of the anti-immigrant movement’s closest allies in the Senate. Sessions was a regular at anti-immigrant gatherings and even received an award from FAIR for his work to derail immigration reform efforts. While Sessions served as the U.S.’s top lawyer, he recommended, implemented, and defended 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 and in the Trump Administration where he served as U.S. Attorney General. 
  • 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 and derogatory 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, in an attempt to control the narrative around immigration reform, he often used his position as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration to invite nativist demagogues to testify before Congress.
  • Sessions received funding from Tanton’s political action committee USIRPAC in 2008 and 2014.
  • He has publicly addressed and received numerous awards from Tanton founded and other extremist groups including FAIR NumbersUSA and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
    • In 2006, Sessions participated in a CIS event featuring Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA. 
    • 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.” In 2014, Sessions was commended by the anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center, and in 2015, the then Senator received the “Keeper of the Flame” award from anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
    • Some of these details were omitted from documents he turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his U.S. Attorney General confirmation proceedings. Senator Richard Blumenthal questioned Sessions on some of these awards during his confirmation hearing.
    • During a meet-and-greet event at the 2015 CPAC, Sessions publicly praised Gaffney and Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA. 
    • In a 2012 floor speech, Sessions commemorated NumbersUSA’s 15th anniversary. In a 2009 press release, the group named Sessions the “No. 1 champion for the American worker on immigration issues.” Just a year earlier in 2008, NumbersUSA awarded Sessions with its Defender of the Rule of Law Award.
    • Sessions has attended FAIR’s annual immigrant bashing “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” event as recently as 2016. The same year, Sessions spoke at a reception at the National Press Club organized by CIS.
    • In 2013, as Congress was considering a bipartisan immigration compromise, Sessions hired then-CIS staff member Janice Kephart as temporary counsel, joined three Republican House members on a CIS teleconference, and spoke alongside Sen. Ted Cruz and Reps Steve King and Mo Brooks at a rally organized by an anti-immigrant front group. Also in 2013, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson participated in a press event organized by Sessions in opposition to S744. 
    • In 2013, the Federation for American Immigration Reform coordinated with sheriffs from around the country to attend their Hold Their Feet to the Fire event and helped to organize a press conference that featured ICE Union President Chris Crane , then-Senator Jeff Sessions and others in order to provide “a critical counter-balancing voice to the Gang of Eight.” Sessions once described Crane as, “a great American.” 

Anti-immigrant Views

  • Jeff Sessions is known for his rejection by the Judiciary Committee for the federal bench and his extreme and unpopular views on immigration and race.
  • Sessions, who announced the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy in April 2018, defended the “zero-tolerance” policy which separated children from their parents along the Southern border, by quoting a passage from the bible, and calling the measure “not unusual or unjustified,” saying: “Our policies that can result in short term separation of families is not unusual or unjustified.”
  • During his tenure as U.S. Attorney General, Sessions repeatedly railed against legal immigration, often blaming immigrants for the economic challenges Americans faced. At his swearing in ceremony, Sessions, stated: “We admit a million people a year plus, lawfully, and we need to end this lawlessness that threatens the public safety, pulls down wages of working Americans.” Separately, the then-Attorney General who has often equated immigrants and immigration with crime, called for a “rational immigration flow,” saying: “It is only reasonable that the good and decent people of this country want to end the illegality, create a rational immigration flow, and protect the nation from criminals.” 
  • For years, Sessions has worked to shrink legal immigration levels, including while in the Senate. 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 attempted to minimize the fallout of Trump’s call 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.”

Anti-immigrant Activity

  • Jeff Sessions has worked for decades to make life for immigrants in the U.S. as difficult as possible, with the goal of shrinking the total immigrant population in the country, including those forced to flee their home countries due to unsafe conditions. As a U.S. Senator, he worked tirelessly to derail comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, and would go on to assist the Trump 2016 presidential campaign in the creation of a dangerous policy framework, which Sessions and President Trump would enact from the White House. 
  • As U.S. Attorney General, Sessions did everything in his power to end DACA, separate families, speed up deportations and dismantle humanitarian protections. In addition to implementing the “zero tolerance policy” which separated thousands of families along the Southern border, Sessions, set arbitrary quotas for immigration judges, and overruled decisions from the Board of immigration Appeals, in order to set up a scenario where as many immigrants were removed from the U.S. as possible. Sessions threatened states and localities he believed would not implement harsh immigration policies, and defended the Trump Administration’s cruel and unpopular measures in court such as the ending of multiple TPS designations, the Muslim bans and the repeal of DACA; a policy which he said the DOJ would take “every lawful measure” to end.
  • Less than two weeks after the repeal of DAPA, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and ten other state attorneys general sent a letter to then-U.S. 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, Sessions refused to deny that he had any communication with Texas AG Ken Paxton or any other attorneys general who were “threatening to bring a lawsuit to void DACA before the decision was made by Trump Administration.” Sessions claimed that these kinds of conversations were privileged. However, Paxton had already confirmed talks with the Trump Administration earlier in the month. According to deposition transcripts with Sessions’ former Senate staffer, Gene Hamilton, the then-DHS advisor acknowledged he’d been the author of the agency’s memo which repealed DACA. Hamilton also admitted he had spoken with Stephen Miller and John Kelly about ending DACA, and had several conversations with the Texas Attorney General’s office before and after that office led an effort threatening legal action if DACA was not repealed before September 5, 2017. 
  • On September 5, 2017, Sessions announced the repeal of DACA. 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 Tanton founded CIS authored reports. In a letter recommending the termination of the program to then-Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, Sessions cited ‘potentially imminent litigation’ as a reason.
  • During remarks at the Heritage Foundation’s Legal Strategy Forum, Sessions criticized 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 stated “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, stated in relation to 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, Sessions frequently cited and promoted false statistics and dubious research from CIS, and regularly called the group’s staff to testify at congressional hearings.
  • 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 June 2017, The United States Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, siding with Texas on SB4 litigation. In a press release announcing the decision, then-U.S. Attorney General said that Texas had admirably followed President Trump’s lead “by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes.” Sessions said in a statement “The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.” In his own statement TX Attorney General Ken Paxton thanked the U.S. DOJ for their support on the case and stated: “We look forward to working with DOJ lawyers to see that Senate Bill 4 is fully honored in Texas.”
  • In 2017, Breitbart’s Steve Bannon reportedly joined Stephen Miller, Julie Kirchner and Sessions to assist in the drafting of the RAISE Act, a bill co-authored by Tom Cotton, which, if enacted, would cut legal immigration by 50%. Miller previously worked as an aide to Sessions, along with Gene Hamilton.
  • 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.”
network-graph Created with Sketch. John Tanton Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation Armstrong Foundation Foundation for the Carolinas The Weeden Foundation Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation ) Ted Cruz Steve King Lou Barletta Paul Gosar Marsha Blackburn Louie Gohmert Mo Brooks CIS FAIR IRLI NumbersUSA Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck Kris Kobach Jessica Vaughan Sessions Jeff Bannon Steve Miller Stephen Julie Kirchner Feere Jon Ken Paxton Abbott Greg Jan Brewer Steven Camarota Wilcox Dale Rosemary Jenks Miano John Michael Hethmon Breitbart Fox News National Review FAIR CIS NumbersUSA IRLI Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation Armstrong Foundation The Weeden Foundation Foundation for the Carolinas Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation) John Tanton FAIR CIS IRLI NumbersUSA John Tanton CIS FAIR IRLI NumbersUSA John Tanton CIS FAIR IRLI NumbersUSA John Tanton CIS FAIR NumbersUSA John Tanton CIS Jeff Sessions Stephen Miller Julie Kirchner Ken Paxton Greg Abbott Jan Brewer Dale Wilcox Michael Hethmon Steve King Fox News Lou Barletta Mo Brooks Paul Gosar Marsha Blackburn Louie Gohmert Kris Kobach Jessica Vaughan Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation The Weeden Foundation Foundation for the Carolinas John Tanton Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation) Breitbart Steve Bannon Jon Feere Steven Camarota Rosemary Jenks John Miano Breitbart Armstrong Foundation Jeff Sessions Stephen Miller Steve King Fox News Lou Barletta Mo Brooks Paul Gosar Marsha Blackburn Louie Gohmert Jessica Vaughan Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation The Weeden Foundation Foundation for the Carolinas John Tanton National Review Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation) Armstrong Foundation Jeff Sessions Stephen Miller Steve King Lou Barletta Mo Brooks Paul Gosar Marsha Blackburn Louie Gohmert Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck The Weeden Foundation Foundation for the Carolinas John Tanton Rosemary Jenks Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation) Julie Kirchner Ken Paxton Greg Abbott Jan Brewer Dale Wilcox Michael Hethmon Kris Kobach John Miano Sidney A. Swensrud Foundation Lou Barletta Dan Stein Mark Krikorian Roy Beck The Weeden Foundation John Tanton Scaife Family (Colcom Foundation) Jan Brewer FAIR NumbersUSA Jeff Sessions IRLI Julie Kirchner John Tanton CIS FAIR NumbersUSA Jeff Sessions IRLI John Tanton CIS FAIR NumbersUSA Jeff Sessions IRLI CIS John Tanton FAIR IRLI Jeff Sessions Lou Barletta Steve King FAIR CIS Jeff Sessions Lou Barletta Dan Stein IRLI FAIR CIS IRLI FAIR NumbersUSA CIS IRLI CIS FAIR IRLI Ted Cruz National Review Mo Brooks Paul Gosar Marsha Blackburn Lou Barletta Mark Krikorian Roy Beck Steve King Dan Stein NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Jessica Vaughan Kris Kobach Breitbart CIS NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Dan Stein IRLI FAIR CIS IRLI FAIR IRLI FAIR Jeff Sessions Jessica Vaughan NumbersUSA FAIR CIS IRLI Jeff Sessions NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Kris Kobach Jessica Vaughan Jeff Sessions NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Jeff Sessions NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Jeff Sessions NumbersUSA FAIR CIS NumbersUSA FAIR CIS Jeff Sessions CIS Steve Bannon FAIR FAIR CIS Jeff Sessions CIS STATE ELECTEDS THE ARCHITECT THE FUNDERS THE MAIN ORGS TRUMP ADMIN LOBBYING, LITIGATION & POLICY LEADERSHIP CONGRESS MEDIA MEGAPHONE
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