“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Gutiérrez said in a statement Friday.
If the Senate confirmed Sessions’ nomination, he would be the nation’s top law enforcement official and have influence over immigration policy and policing. The early Trump backer has fought immigration reform and pushed to reduce legal immigration.
Several civil rights organizations called on the Senate to reject Sessions on Friday.
Sessions caused controversy for making racists remarks when he served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in the 1980s. He was under consideration to become a federal judge during this period. But testimony alleged that he had called a black attorney “boy.” He also allegedly said that civil rights groups were trying to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them,” joked that he had no problem with the Ku Klux Klan besides their drug use and agreed that a white lawyer with black clients could be a race traitor. His nomination for the judge post was defeated.
Gutiérrez’ statement referenced Sessions’ stance on immigration and the comments that lost him a seat on the federal bench:
No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants, and people of color than Sen. Sessions. He is a staunch opponent of legal immigration and someone who has blocked every effort to improve, modernize, and humanize our immigration system, which is two or three decades out-of-date. He ran for the Senate because he was deemed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as too racist to serve as a federal judge. He is the kind of person who will set back law enforcement, civil rights, the courts, and increase America’s mass incarceration industry and erase 50 years of progress.
On Thursday, Gutiérrez wrote a letter to President Barack Obama with Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), urging him to pardon over 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and had qualified to receive protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump has vowed to immediately end DACA, which was established by Obama under an executive order. During an interview that aired Sunday, Trump said he planned to deport or imprison between 2 and 3 million undocumented immigrants as soon as he is in office.
CORRECTION: Jeff Sessions served as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, not as the state’s attorney general, in the 1980s.