Police organizations can’t wait for Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Sen. Jeff Sessions is on the verge of achieving the ultimate personal vindication when the Senate confirms his nomination to be attorney general as expected Wednesday night, and many law enforcement groups can’t wait for his installation.
The Alabama Republican, an early Trump supporter during the campaign, and the new president share a tougher approach to immigration enforcement than any modern-day president regardless of party.
Sessions’ efforts to crackdown on illegal immigrants over the last decade often put him at odds with many of his Senate colleagues who voted in favor of giving illegal migrants already living in the country a path to citizenship. But the stance is already winning him kudos from law enforcement groups, eager for a helping hand from Washington.
Six sheriffs from some of California’s biggest counties met with Sessions in his Senate office Tuesday and afterward were clearly encouraged by the listening session.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood from Kern County, who serves as the California State Sheriffs’ Association president, told the Washington Examiner it was the “best reception we’ve had” with anyone poised to assist them at the Justice Department.
“We had no relationship with the former attorney general – none. We’ve had more of a relationship today [with Sessions] than we’ve ever had,” Youngblood said.
The sheriffs are specifically upset about California lawmakers’ efforts to tie their hands when it comes to keeping illegal immigrants convicted or charged with major crimes detained in order to work with federal immigration authorities, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to deport them.
“People talk about sanctuary cities and counties — none of us want to be sanctuary counties,” one California county sheriff said after the meeting. “The state is trying to force that on us. We’re the local elected law enforcement leaders who want to do public safety for our citizens and the state is trying to take that away from us.”
Besides Youngblood, other California County sheriffs who participated in the meeting were Sheriffs John McMahon of San Bernardino County, Steve Freitas of Sonoma County, Scott Jones of Sacramento County and David Livingston of Contra Costa County, and Undersheriff Don Barnes of Orange County.
“We still plod ahead trying to do what’s right for the last eight year with no assistance from the feds at all, and now we’re hoping that that changes and we get some support. That would be a huge help – just that piece — [because of] the absence of assistance from ICE and the DOJ,” said another sheriff from the San Francisco area.
In addition, 100 former U.S. attorneys who served under Democratic and Republican presidents wrote a letter of support for Sessions’ confirmation after 1,400 law professors across the country urged the Senate to reject his confirmation over concerns about his record on civil rights.
During the presidential campaign, Trump also earned the endorsement of unions representing the country’s border patrol and ICE agents supportive of his get-tough immigration approach.
“Our officers come into daily contact with many of the most dangerous people in the world – cartel members, gang members, weapons traffickers, murder suspects, drug dealers, suspects of violent assault – yet ICE Officers are unable to arrest or are forced to release many of the most dangerous back into U.S. communities due to unscrupulous political agendas and corrupt leaders,” the ICE union said in a statement during the presidential campaign.
In Sessions, such law enforcement complaints will find a receptive ear, especially when it comes to thorny immigration issues border states are forced to handle.
Democrats are diametrically opposed to Trump’s immigration crackdown, and they dug in early to try to prevent Sessions’ ascension to the nation’s top law enforcement post or at least weaken his standing.
Immediately after Trump tapped him for attorney general in November, Senate Democrats tried to revive allegations of racial insensitivity and lack of support for voting rights laws that sunk his nomination to a federal judgeship back in the 1980s.
Then a rising star in his Alabama’s legal community, Sessions responded ten years later by winning a Senate seat and a place on the same Judiciary Committee that had rejected his appointment to the federal bench. Sessions took a seat on the panel, serving alongside his accusers, then-Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del. the late Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Over the years, Sessions managed to work with several Democrats on the committee to reduce prison sentences for crack-cocaine possession, a top priority for the black community. In 2003, he teamed up with Kennedy to pass a bill that tightened penalties for prison rape.
The work across the aisle with his colleagues didn’t prevent Senate Democrats and civil rights groups from resurrecting the charges of racism and lack of support for civil rights laws over the past two months in an attempt to try to sink Sessions’ chances of becoming President Trump ‘s attorney general.
Democrats cited his support for the Supreme Court ‘s 2013 decision to gut the Voting Rights Act’s key Section 5, which mandates that certain states, including Alabama, submit any changes to voting law to the federal government before implementing them.
Late last month, Democrats delayed a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Sessions’ nomination by using a procedural maneuver and repeatedly protested Trump’s executive order imposing a temporary halt to the immigration and travel of people from seven majority-Muslim countries.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said she couldn’t vote for Sessions because she didn’t believe he would stand up to the president the way Acting Attorney General Sally Yates did after she declined to defend Trump’s recent immigration order. Trump fired Yates the same day she made the declaration.
On the eve of Sessions’ confirmation Tuesday, Democrats held an all-night talk-a-thon to protest Sessions nomination, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. a fellow Judiciary Committee colleague, delivered a petition to the Senate of 1 million people opposed to Sessions confirmation – collected by various civil right groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Voto Latino.
The debate Tuesday night grew so heated that Republicans used Senate rules to bar Sen. Elizabeth Warren. D-Mass. from further debate on Sessions’ nomination after she read a Coretta Scott King letter to the Senate from 1986 condemning Sessions stance on racial views. Republicans deemed Warren’s reading of the letter in violation of Senate rules prohibiting senators from impugning their colleagues’ motives.
In the end, however, Democrats’ sound and fury did little but delay the Alabama Republican’s confirmation.