More than 1,100 law school professors from 170 universities wrote a letter to Congress opposing President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as Attorney General. Judiciary Committee hearings begin January 10; Sessions is a committee member.
Representatives from Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School and the University of Chicago Law School, among dozens of others, claimed, “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.” They point to 30-year-old issues that include Sessions’ rejection as a federal judgeship nominee and his “racial insensitivity” when he successfully prosecuted three Alabama civil rights activists for voter fraud. More recently, the professors condemn Sessions for his opposition to LGBTQ rights and his support of building a wall along the Southwestern U.S-Mexico border.
Democrats are fearful of the Trump-Sessions enforcement-oriented tandem. During President Obama’s two terms, he has either ignored or watered down, often with deadly consequences, many existing immigration laws. Lives have been lost because of sanctuary city policies, which have shielded illegal immigrants, including convicted felons and previous deportees, from deportation. The most infamous case involved the shooting death of Kate Steinle in sanctuary city San Francisco, but dozens of other fatal incidents have also occurred. As Attorney General, Sessions could enforce an existing law, 8 USC 1373, which prohibits local communities from banning their officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Cities that fail to comply with the law could lose billions of dollars in federal grant money. On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly promised to end sanctuary cities.
With Sessions in charge of enforcement, the new administration could move quickly to restore job site immigration status checks and authorize Immigration and Customs Enforcement to expeditiously remove recently arrived aliens, a particularly important provision given the ongoing Central American border surge. Sessions as AG could also tighten H-1B visa requirements and eliminate many of the visas issued to low-skilled laborers who work in poor-paying jobs. Employment-based visas have displaced hundreds of thousands of American workers. Trump can act on these measures without congressional approval.
Sessions is a southern, white, conservative Republican. The anti-Sessions lawyers are liberal Democrats largely from major cities. Their knee-jerk attack on Sessions is to charge him with racism. But there’s more behind the lawyers’ invective against Sessions. Immigration is a source of enormous profit for lawyers, and Sessions represents a threat to that income. Less immigration would mean fewer clients.
Through his eight-year long, aggressive pro-immigration agenda, Obama guaranteed that lawyers who specialize in immigration would have plenty of work. According to Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration database, more than 500,000 backlogged immigration cases have piled up, a 30 percent increase since 2013, with wait times up to four years. Due process before an alien can be deported assures lengthy delays while the lawyers’ meters are running. Unaccompanied Central American minors have priority in the courts which has exacerbated an already swamped system.
Trump’s presidency threatens the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and the American Friends Service Committee members. Immigration lawyers recognize a profitable venture when they see it. In 1975, the AILA had 600 practicing attorneys; in 1986, 1,800, and today, 14,000.
The anti-Trump letter signatories and their Democratic allies know the high financial and political stakes, and are determined to derail Sessions’ nomination. Some have demanded the unprecedented – that Sessions recuse himself from voting as part of the committee of which he’s a senior member. Sessions is expected to prevail, but not before an extended, contentious fight plays out.
Joe Guzzardi is a Senior Writing Fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.