“As the nation’s top lawyer, head of the immigration court, and civil rights officer, Jeff Sessions would have access to multiple tools to harm immigrants and undermine due process. Given his rhetoric and record as a United States Senator, as well as his association with anti-immigrant extremists, there is every reason to believe he would use all of them.
Here are five ways Sessions could attempt to undermine immigrants and immigration policy if confirmed as Attorney General:
Impose his radical, anti-immigrant ideology on decisions by the federal immigration courts;
Expand the number of immigrants who are deported even though they qualify for a green card or asylum;
Reduce access to legal counsel and information about immigrants’ legal rights;
Criminalize immigrants by bringing trumped up charges against ordinary workers; and
Strong arm state and local police to become Trump deportation agents
Of course, any attempt Sessions would make to undermine civil and due process rights will be met by strong litigation from the outside. But the U.S. Senate should block his confirmation from the start, as Senator Sessions is highly unqualified for this position and has showed a profound disregard for civil and human rights.”
Sorry, David, but Jeff Sessions has the votes to be confirmed as the next Attorney General. Those who don’t like that can rant, but that’s not going to change the reality that Donald Trump won the Presidential election and the Republicans firmly control both Houses of Congress.
When you lose elections at the national and state levels, like the Democrats did, you end up with next to no leverage on appointments or policies unless you can reach across the aisle and strike a chord with at least some Republicans. Right now, it appears that all Republican Senators, and probably a few Democrats, ewill vote for Senator Sessions’s confirmation. Whatever his pros and cons, Senator Sessions appears to have had the wisdom to be polite and cordial to his colleagues and to occasionally reach across the aisle on issues of common interest. Rightly or wrongly, that seems to count for a lot when current or former Senators come up for confirmation to Executive Branch positions.
So barring a “bombshell” next week, and I must say his record has been “flyspecked” — regardless of what he put in the Judiciary Committee questionnaire — that’s unlikely. For better or worse, Senator Session’s views on a wide variety of subjects and his conduct as a public servant over many decades are a matter of public record. Nothing in that record seems to have given pause to any of his Republican Senate colleagues.
That being said, it woulds be nice to think that upon hearing some of the criticisms, Jeff Sessions will reflect on the huge differences between being a Senator from Alabama, the Attorney General of Alabama, and a U.S. Attorney for Alabama, and the wider responsibilities of being the chief law enforcement official, legal adviser, and litigator representing all of the People of the United States, not just the Trump Administration.
David is, of course, correct to focus on Attorney General Session’s vast authority over immigration. He will control a huge and critically important U.S. Immigration Court System currently sporting a backlog of more than one-half million cases and suffering from chronically inadequate judicial administration and lack of basic technology like e-filing. While there certainly is an interrelationship among civil rights, human rights, and due process in the Immigration Courts, there is every reason to believe that Attorney General Session’s biggest impact will be in the field of immigration.
If things go as David predicts, then the battle over fundamental fairness and due process in immigration policy and the Immigration Courts is likely to be fought out in the Article III Federal Courts, which, unlike the Immigration Courts, aren’t under Executive control. That will have some drawbacks for everyone, but particularly for the Trump Administration.
And, if Sessions is wise, he’ll look back at what happened when the Bush Administration tried to promote a “rubber stamp” approach to justice and due process in the Immigration Courts. The U.S. Courts of Appeals were outraged at the patent lack of due process and fundamental fairness as “not quite ready for prime time” cases were “streamlined” and thrown into the Courts of Appeals for review with glaring factual errors and remarkable legal defects. Not totally incidentally, this also dramatically increased their workload, with judicial review of immigration matters occupying a majority of the docket in several prominent circuits.
As a result, cases were returned to the Board of Immigration Appeals, who then returned them to the Immigration Courts for “re-dos,” in droves. The Courts of Appeals lost faith in the Executive’s ability to run a fundamentally fair, high quality Immigration Court System, and basically placed the Immigration Courts into “judicial receivership” until things stabilized at least somewhat. The waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars caused by this “haste makes waste” approach was beyond contemplation and, for a time, threatened to paralyze the entire American justice system.
Additionally, it would be a huge mistake for the Trump Administration to view the Bush Administration’s Immigration Court debacle as the product of “bleeding heart liberal appellate judges” appointed by President Bill Clinton. The criticism from Article III Judges cut across political lines. Two of the most outspoken judicial critics of the Bush Administration’s handling of the U.S. Immigration Courts were Republican appointees: then Chief Judge John M. Walker, Jr. of the Second Circuit and Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit. Indeed, Judge Walker is a cousin of former President George H.W. Bush.
Obviously, those who favor greater immigration enforcement won the election and are going to have a chance to try out their policies. But, “enhanced enforcement” is likely to be effective only if we have a fair, impartial, and totally due process oriented Immigration Court System.
In other words, the Immigration Courts must be a “level playing field” with judges who, in the words of Chief Justice Roberts, play the role of “impartial umpires” between those seeking to stay in our country and those seeking to remove them. Results from such a due-process oriented system would be more likely to inspire confidence from the U.S. Courts of Appeals, thereby increasing the stature of the Immigration Courts and their ability to achieve final resolutions at the initial, and most cost-efficient, level of our justice system. Due process and fairness in the Immigration Court System should be a nonpartisan common interest no matter where one stands on other aspects of the “immigration debate.”
We are about to find out what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has in mind for the U.S. Immigration Courts and the rest of the U.S. justice system. I’m hoping for the best, but preparing to assert the essential constitutional requirement for due process in the Immigration Courts if, as David predicts, it comes under attack.
Due Process Forever!