Sessions’ Confirmation Hearing: Human Rights Concerns
By Noor Mir, Campaigner for Deadly Force, Criminal Justice and Ending Gun Violence
As a Muslim Pakistani-American woman living and working in the United States today, I am terrified about the nomination of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of this country. If confirmed in his hearing next week, Sessions will be elected to the position of the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the United States government. This means that he has power over laws and policies that affect us all — from investigations into police-involved killings, bans on people like my Muslim, Pakistani father from entering the country, stop-and-frisk, refugee and immigrant rights and the rights of our LGBTQ family and women across the country.
If his public record isn’t concerning enough, Sessions failed to answer the nomination questionnaire properly, omitting key information about his past. As the nominee for the highest law enforcement and legal position in the country, this is incredibly troubling. Here is what we already know about him.
Police accountability: In the past, Sessions has condemned investigations of law enforcement agencies accused of a “pattern or practice” of violating civil rights as “dangerous and constituting an end run around the democratic process.” These investigations are crucial to remedying dangerous practices in law enforcement agencies across the country — in the past 7 years, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has investigated 23 law enforcement agencies, and 14 have resulted in consent decrees, which are a result of pattern and practice investigations. With investigations still underway in Chicago and a decree that has not been finalized yet in Baltimore, we must have an Attorney General in office that supports them.
Muslim ban: In the Senate, Sessions was an outspoken opponent of a resolution condemning religious bans on people entering the U.S. Since then, he’s also publicly supported Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country.
Hate crimes and LGBTQ rights: Sessions opposed legislation that would have expanded the definition of hate crimes to include attacks on people based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability, such as the Matthew Shepard Act. He also supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2006.
Women’s rights: Sessions opposed legislation on women’s rights — such as access to reproductive health services and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. He was one of only 22 Republican senators to vote against the reauthorization of the Violation Against Women Act in 2013.
Torture: Sessions have previously voiced support for leaving waterboarding on the table as an option for interrogations. He was also one of 21 Senators to vote against legislation in 2015 that strengthened the ban on torture and ill-treatment.
Immigration: Sessions has worked to block efforts in Congress for comprehensive immigration reform and has consistently advocated policies that would restrict the number of refugees and asylum seekers admitted to the U.S., despite increasing humanitarian crises abroad that have forced people to flee war, extreme violence, and grave human rights abuses. He has staunchly opposed the granting of legal status to women and children fleeing persecution in Central America, supported mandatory detention and expedited deportations for asylum seekers, and proposed legislation to promptly return unaccompanied minors to their country of origin.
We must promote a human rights agenda and fight for our voices to be heard. Call your Senator today.