Will Jeff Sessions Affect NYU?

Senator Jeff Sessions, the new Attorney General, speaking on Oct. 8, 2015. Sessions has continuously neglected civil rights in his political career.

After a narrow 52 to 47 victory in the Senate, Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s attorney general on Feb. 8. Public reactions to the appointment of the Alabama Republican have been varied due to the accusations of racism that plagued Sessions’s previous political career.

Although policy advocacy groups like 45Committee actively endorsed for Sessions’s instatement as attorney general, a number of civil rights groups — including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws — spoke against Sessions when he received the nomination. The NAACP even released an Urgent Action Alert showing its concern over Sessions’s appointment and asked people to join in its opposition.

“U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, Jeff Sessions, was accused of demonstrating, through his words and his actions, a deeply concerning disregard for civil, human and voting rights and the needs of the people he served and represented,” the Urgent Action Alert said. “Furthermore, as a U.S. Senator, he has consistently opposed many of the very crucial laws and programs for which he will be responsible for enforcing at the U.S. Department of Justice. He has earned an average score of just over 10 percent out of 100 percent on the NAACP Civil Rights Federal Legislative Report Card throughout his 19 years as a U.S. Senator.”

Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in NYU’s Department of Politics Patrick Egan said that conflict is to be expected in primarily Democratic states. Egan said that states leaning more to the left may fight against federal policies.

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“The main place I expect to see skirmishes between Democrats and Sessions will be in the states where Democrats hold power as governors or attorneys general,” Egan said. “In these states, we are likely to see fights over the extent of the federal government’s authority versus that of the states, particularly when state laws are different from the policies pursued by the Trump administration.”

LS freshman Alexander Yu said that the opposition by civil rights groups is concerning and that the appointment of Sessions makes him question the current state of democratic values in the United States.

“This country was built on the principles of freedom and civil rights,” Yu said in an email. “The fact that Sessions has such low ratings from civil rights and minority groups is worrying now that he is our attorney general.”

Yu also said that Sessions’s previous comments about the Ku Klux Klan and immigration make him cautious of fully endorsing Sessions for the attorney general position.

CAS freshman Nick Sawhney also thinks that Sessions’s position on immigrant rights is troubling. Sawhney said that since Sessions does not support undocumented or documented immigrants, these communities may be negatively affected by his views.

“If Sessions’s history is to be taken into account, we can see that he represents a real threat to our immigrant population here at NYU,” Sawhney said. “Not only undocumented immigrants or those from countries that were targeted in recent executive orders, but also legal immigrants — he’s been against guest worker programs and work visa programs for a long time.”

Sawhney also said that since NYU has a large immigrant population, Sessions’s views on immigration could be troubling in terms of NYU’s interests.

CAS sophomore Amanda Lawson believes that Sessions’s appointment as attorney general is a signal for NYU students to start protecting immigrant rights. She thinks it will take a sizeable amount of action to counter Sessions’s anti-immigrant views and subsequent legislations.

“America’s attorney general — the literal highest legal officer and arbitrator of fairness and equality [in the United States] — is a military hawk, climate change skeptic, anti-legal immigration [and] racist [who is] presiding over a system where acknowledging this fact is against the rules of our Senate,” Lawson said. “This should scare all of us.“

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 13 print edition. Email Irfan Suharno at [email protected]

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