It looks like President-elect Trump is deliberately gathering the worst anti-immigrants in the nation for key positions in his administration.
Jeff Sessions, who is not only anti-immigrant but is considered by many a racist, has been tapped for the position of U.S. Attorney General, facing tough confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate. Kris Kobach’s name is being mentioned in the press as a potential immigration czar, a newly created post that does not even need confirmation hearings.
But who are Sessions and Kobach, and why are both so feared by the immigrant community? Let’s take a look at their backgrounds:
Jeff Sessions III is the junior United States Senator from Alabama. As a senator, Sessions has opposed nearly every immigration bill that has come before the Senate during the past two decades that has included a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.
He has even fought legal immigration, including guest worker and H-1B visa programs for foreign workers in science, math and computer sciences.
Sessions argues that legal immigration is the primary source of low wages in the United States. He decidedly favors slowing the pace of new arrivals. His hardline positions are a cause of concern for businesses that depend on an immigrant labor force, including agricultural workers, hospitality staff, and even top-paying tech industry jobs. Naturally, he supports the elimination of President Obama’s executive action for DREAMers called DACA.
He has opposed civil rights legislation and has a record of disenfranchising and denying the rights of people of color, immigrants, and Muslim communities. His overtly racist statements made during his career as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama are well remembered by the media.
Few Arizonans associate SB1070 – the anti-immigration law that allowed law enforcement agents to ask Latinos for their papers and was later largely declared unconstitutional by the courts – with Kris Kobach. But the Kansas State Secretary was a major player in drafting the law. He subsequently was instrumental in Arizona’s efforts to defend the law in the courts.
A lawyer for the nativist movement, Kobach also was the legal force behind an SB1070 follow-up law, Alabama’s HB 56, passed in 2010, which has been described as tougher than Arizona’s law. His motto is “If you really want to create a job tomorrow, you can remove an illegal alien today.” This is despite the fact that research has widely demonstrated that immigration creates wealth and jobs.
His anti-immigration quest has led Kobach to file lawsuits against in-state tuition for DREAMers.
In several lawsuits, Kobach legally defended cities and states that adopted laws to discourage illegal immigration. He defended ordinances that required businesses to use a federal worker verification program known as E-Verify in order to maintain a business license. In the case of Hazleton, Pennsylvania and Farmers Branch, Texas, he defended ordinances prohibiting employing and renting property to illegal immigrants.
The laws he has helped to draft have empowered politicians in Arizona like Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, and Jan Brewer in their anti-immigrant crusades.
With these two hardliners, immigrant groups and advocates face an interesting journey ahead.