CWS Statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Pertaining to the
Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General
January 10 – 11, 2017
As a 71-year old humanitarian organization representing 37 Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox communions and 36 refugee resettlement offices across the country, Church World Service urges all Senators to oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Senator Sessions has consistently made dehumanizing comments about immigrants, refugees and minorities, and is not fit to serve in this position. We know from sacred texts across faith traditions that nations will be judged by how they treat the most vulnerable: the widow, the orphan, and the refugee, during trying times.
As the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, the Attorney General is charged with upholding the constitutional rights and protections of all Americans – regardless of where they come from or which religion they practice. In contrast, Senator Sessions has called Islam a “toxic ideology,” implied that all persons from the Middle East are dangerous, and supported a “Muslim ban” in the United States. This type of hateful, xenophobic rhetoric has been met with increases in acts of hate, especially against our Muslim brothers and sisters. Senator Sessions has also opposed hate crime protections for LGBTI individuals, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and civil rights laws.
Senator Sessions has close ties to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremist groups like the NumbersUSA, the Center for Security Policy, and Federation for American Immigration Reform, whose leaders regularly make racist statements and founded these groups on white supremacist ideals. As Attorney General, Senator Sessions will be responsible for prosecuting hate crimes, and his record on this issue ignores effective approaches to countering extremism, while galvanizing instances of hate against others. Senator Sessions has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the U.S. Constitution, and his appointment would undermine our nation’s commitment to religious freedom and non-discrimination.
Immigrants and all newcomers contribute to our communities. Immigration is correlated with significantly higher employment growth and a decline in the unemployment rate, and immigrants have high business formation rates, creating successful businesses that hire immigrant and U.S. citizen employees. Yet, Senator Sessions has wrongfully argued that immigrants do not contribute to the United States — a perspective that has been widely discredited, given that immigrants are vital assets to the U.S. economy and are an important part of the U.S. business community. On numerous occasions, he has stated that refugees and immigrants are unable to integrate, and has implied that people who are not currently fluent in English have less value. As we face the worst displacement crisis in recorded history with over 65 million displaced persons including over 21 million refugees around the world, it is critical that the United States demonstrate leadership in refugee protection and resettlement. The U.S. refugee resettlement program emphasizes early self-sufficiency through employment, and most refugees are employed within their first six months of arriving to the United States.
Throughout his career, Senator Sessions has failed to respect the dignity of all individuals and uphold our values of compassion, generosity, and welcome. Congress has already determined that Senator Sessions does not meet the standards necessary to carry out a political appointment. In 1986, a Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee rejected his nomination for a federal judgeship in Alabama because of his history of racist statements. Since then, Senator Sessions has remained steadfast in his divisive, hateful rhetoric. He has supported attempts to curtail due process rights for asylum seekers, especially children, and expressed hostility toward U.S. legal obligations to screen arriving individuals for protection claims if the individual expresses a fear of return to their home country. Senator Sessions is simply not poised to ensure the U.S. government complies with basic, fundamental legal obligations and fulfills its commitment to protecting vulnerable populations.
We urge you to oppose the confirmation of Senator Sessions as Attorney General and to live up to our nation’s values of compassion, hospitality, and welcome. We must carry on our nation’s proud history of hospitality and moral leadership. Let us reflect the best of our nation by extending hospitality and affirming our collective, moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us.