Providence, R.I. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse yesterday brought together more than a dozen Rhode Islanders representing civil rights organizations, the legal community, government, and other constituencies to hear Rhode Islanders’ thoughts about President-elect Trump’s nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for United States Attorney General. Whitehouse is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has scheduled a nomination hearing for Sessions on Jan. 10 and 11.
“The United States Attorney General is entrusted with protecting the civil liberties of every single American, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. The Attorney General must set aside personal beliefs to enforce the nation’s laws, upholding all of the values enshrined in our Constitution that for centuries have made our country the beacon of the free world,” said Whitehouse. “Having heard concerns about the President-elect’s nominee for Attorney General from constituents of many backgrounds, I’ll be looking to Senator Sessions to provide evidence he will protect the fundamental rights of all Rhode Islanders.”
Participants raised questions about Sessions’ record on civil rights, voting access, immigration, and criminal justice reform. Some around the table expressed concern about whether a Justice Department led by Sessions would be willing to remain independent from the Trump White House, as the Department is currently instructed to do.
“Senator Sessions’ signature issue during his time in the Senate has been immigration, and it is an area where the Department of Justice has a great deal of enforcement discretion. We have every reason to believe that as Attorney General he will try to put into action the anti-immigrant agenda of the radical right,” said Jared Goldstein, law professor at Roger Williams University School of Law. “On voting rights Senator Sessions has long peddled the discredited view that there is massive voting fraud, primarily by immigrants and members of minority communities.”
“With the rise in hate crimes against mosques and Muslims, it is frightening that Senator Sessions with his record on civil liberties is nominated for the highest law enforcement office in the country,” said Hilmy Bakri, President of the Board of Trustees for the Islamic School of Rhode Island.
Yesterday’s meeting at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Providence Liston Campus was part of Whitehouse’s ongoing outreach to gather local feedback on the President-elect’s cabinet nominees. Constituents are encouraged to share thoughts about or questions for any of the President-elect’s nominations with Whitehouse via his website,whitehouse.senate.gov, or by calling his office at (401) 453-5294.
“Senator Sessions is particularly unqualified to serve as our nation’s lead attorney,” said Rebecca Kislak, President of the Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW). “His history of racism, actions to suppress the African American vote in his home state of Alabama, and his votes against vulnerable communities, including immigrants, people of color, LGBT people and women raise serious concerns about his ability to carry out the duties of Attorney General of the United States.”
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