ACLU on Sessions’ First 100 Days

May 19, 2017 5:15 pm

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WASHINGTON — Tomorrow marks the 100th day since Jeff Sessions took the helm of the Justice Department as attorney general.

Faiz Shakir, American Civil Liberties Union national political director, issued the following statement:

“In just 100 days, Attorney General Sessions has already rolled back the clock on decades of progress for civil rights. The Justice Department’s lowlights include opposition to consent decrees that aim to correct systemic bias in policing, its revival of mass incarceration policies that destroy communities, and multiple failures in the court of law as it has tried to implement Donald Trump’s unconstitutional policies.

“Jeff Sessions is clearly showing he’s more interested in talking tough on crime than in actually doing anything to make our nation safer. If he doesn’t change course quickly, Americans will remember him and his legacy poorly — especially communities of color across the country who bear the brunt of the discriminatory policies he’s championed.”

Below is a summary of actions Sessions has undertaken that the ACLU believes pose a threat to people’s constitutional rights.

  • Transgender rights: Following his swearing-in, Sessions moved quickly to rescind Obama-era guidance to schools explaining how Title IX protects transgender students from discrimination, which includes being forced to use bathrooms that are inconsistent with a student’s gender identity.
  • LGBT and reproductive rights: Under Sessions, the Justice Department refused to appeal a nationwide court order that prevented the federal government from enforcing an Affordable Care Act regulation that protects transgender people and women from discrimination in healthcare.
  • Policing: Sessions wasted no time to weaken the department’s power to investigate and sue local police departments for unconstitutional police practices, like excessive force. On March 31, Sessions ordered a review of the police reform agreements that often result from investigations known as consent decrees. Sessions publicly stated that consent decrees “discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”
  • Immigration: On April 11, Sessions announced the department’s intent to prioritize immigration-related cases across the country, including for acts of simple border-crossing to rejoin children and other family in the United States.
  • Sentencing: On May 10, in a new memo, Session directed prosecutors “to charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.” In 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft instituted this type of guidance, which contributed to mass incarceration at the federal level resulting in unprecedented numbers of people being imprisoned for low-level drug offenses.
  • Private prisons: The Trump administration, through a memo from Sessions, withdrew an Obama administration policy to reduce and ultimately end the use of private prisons by the Justice Department. Private prison companies have hired former Sessions aides to lobby for them.
  • Voting rights: Sessions reversed a long held departmental position, going against district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, that Texas engaged in intentional discrimination in enacting the state’s voter ID law that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters and violated the Voting Rights Act.

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