Jeff Sessions' Opinion On The Muslim Registry

by Cate Carrejo

President-elect Donald Trump is continuing to send shock waves through the American public as he builds his administration for the next four years in the White House, most recently with the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general. Sessions, who has a long documented history of racist and sexist comments, will now serve as the head of the Justice Department, which is bad, bad news for many of the marginalized people Trump targeted throughout his campaign. In particular, Sessions could have unprecedented power to enforce Trump's proposed "Muslim Registry," of which Sessions seems to be a staunch supporter.

During an 2015 radio interview with his now co-worker Steve Bannon, Sessions said that Trump was "treading on dangerous ground" with his proposed ban on all Muslims entering the country, but that it is "appropriate to begin to discuss" the issue. Sessions has been fairly consistent in his support for Trump and this policy since his endorsement in February, at least as consistent as he can get given the number of times Trump has changed his own stance on it.

It's not surprising at all that Sessions takes such a hard stance on Muslims, as he's been one of the harshest opponents of immigration since taking his Senate seat in 1997. In a 2015 hearing with Homeland Security Secretary León Rodríguez, Sessions went off about Syrian refugees, claiming that there is no vetting process and postulating that untold numbers have been convicted of terrorist activity, though neither is true. He even campaigned against the H-1B visa program, a legal immigration tool for highly-skilled foreign workers (yet paradoxically voted against most major education initiatives that have come up during his time in the Senate).

According to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a member of Trump's immigration policy team, the registry system would potentially fall under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, as it did for the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System in 2002. The post-Sept. 11 program involved fingerprinting all males over the age of 16 who visited the country for school or work. That's a lot smaller scale than the proposal that Trump made, but given that Trump is basically trying to define all Muslims as threats to homeland security, there's a sliver of internal logic there.

That being said, Sessions, as head of the Justice Department, may be the one to prosecute any theoretical violators — people who fail to register, people who register erroneously or in protest, or anyone who commits a crime while registered. That's a terrifying concept for someone who's been so openly racist and prejudiced towards immigrants, but that's where the country is right now apparently.