A conservative Republican and an early supporter of Trump’s bid for the presidency, 69-year-old Sessions vehemently opposed immigration reform and efforts to end mandatory-minimum prison sentences for federal offenders during his time in the Senate. He was also rejected from a federal judgeship two decades ago.
The Senate will have to confirm Sessions, who was also rumored to be in the running for Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, before he can officially take on the role of attorney general. Though Sessions is reportedly well-liked by his colleagues, he could face opposition due to racist remarks he reportedly made in the past.
A former federal prosecutor and attorney general in Alabama, Sessions was rejected for a federal judge position in 1986 when the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Session’s former colleagues who said he referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other civil rights groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.”
He was also accused of referring to an African-American colleague as “boy” and saying that he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot,” a comment he admitted making but dismissed as a joke.
Sessions currently serves on the Judiciary Committee and as attorney general, would oversee enforcement of America’s civil rights laws.
Sessions would also wield tremendous power over U.S. immigration policy and oversee the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which decides the fate of people facing deportation. He would also be in charge of the Board of Immigration Appeals, described as the “Supreme Court of immigration law.”
His many anti-immigration battles in the Senate have included leading the effort to defeat so-called “amnesty” bills that would have granted some undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, repeatedly pushed for building a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and supporting enforcing zero-tolerance for illegally crossing the border through more aggressive prosecution.
Sessions’ hardline views on immigration are laid out in a 23-page manifesto he released last year. In the document, he writes that immigration reform will “benefit everyone but actual American citizens” and calls claims by Silicon Valley that immigrant workers with elite skills are necessary for innovation a “hoax.” He also argues against allowing Central American asylum seekers to resettle in the U.S.
“We need make no apology,” Sessions wrote, “in rejecting an extreme policy of sustained mass immigration, which the public repudiates and which the best economic evidence tells us undermines wage growth and economic mobility.”
As attorney general, Sessions would also oversee the Drug Enforcement Administration and direct federal prosecutors across the country, a role that would allow him to shape U.S. drug policy. While Trump has said he’ll respect state decisions on marijuana legalization, Sessions is anti-weed.
“We need grown-ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” he said during a Senate hearing in April. He also remarked that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”