Posted on November 29, 2016

Immigration Hard-Liner Sessions Could Execute Crackdown as AG

Seung Min Kim, Politico, November 29, 2016

For two decades in the Senate, Jeff Sessions led an anti-immigration crusade that made him an outlier in GOP politics–raging against illegal immigration and an excess of foreign workers well before Donald Trump tore onto the political scene.

But next year, Sessions likely will be the one engineering the immigration crackdown.

If confirmed as Trump’s attorney general, the Alabama senator would instantly become one of the most powerful people overseeing the nation’s immigration policy, with wide latitude over the kinds of immigration violations to prosecute and who would be deported.

As the nation’s top cop, Sessions would be able to direct limited department resources to pursuing immigration cases. He could launch federal investigations into what he perceives as discrimination against U.S. citizens caused by immigration. He would be in charge of drafting legal rationales for immigration policies under the Trump administration.

And Sessions, as attorney general, could find ways to choke off funding for “sanctuary cities,” where local officials decline to help federal officials identify undocumented immigrants so they can be deported.


One of Sessions’ major powers as attorney general would be his oversight of the immigration courts, formally known as the Executive Office of Immigration Review. That’s the venue where immigrants make their case before a judge on why they should not be deported.

The system is notoriously backlogged, with nearly 522,000 cases currently pending, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which monitors cases. Sessions could try to speed up the process by installing more judges, particularly ones who align with his tough-on-immigration views. {snip}

Sessions could also exert control through the Board of Immigration Appeals. An immigrant who disagrees with a judge’s decision can appeal to this board, whose 17 members are appointed by the attorney general and write decisions that can set a broad precedent.


Von Spakovksy said a Sessions-led Justice Department could, for example, ramp up enforcement of a current ban on employers hiring those who are here illegally.

“If the employer provision is enforced and the news gets out that the Justice Department is finally enforcing that provision . . . that will lead to large numbers of individuals self-deporting,” said von Spakovsky, now a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.


It’s not just illegal immigration policies that have riled up Sessions. Last year, he and a bipartisan group of senators pressed then-Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate potential visa abuses at Southern California Edison, a utility company that had been accused of laying off hundreds of workers in favor of cheaper foreign workers through the H-1B visa program.

As attorney general, Sessions would be in a position to lead those investigations himself.