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Jeff Sessions Sets Back the Clock

How low can he go? And how far back can this Attorney General take us?

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee November 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Pay no attention to what the media says about how undermined Jeff Sessions is. President Donald Trump may bait him publicly via tweet, but in private, at the Department of Justice, Sessions is a man on a mission to roll back civil rights. And that’s just what he’s doing.

Take what he did this July 3, quietly rescinding two dozen documents intended to make American institutions less racist.

The guidelines the AG scrapped included Obama-era guides on affirmative action that urged colleges to promote diversity for the benefit of the campus and the public good. Others reminded employers that asylum seekers have every right to work, and still others sought to head off another mortgage meltdown by warning brokers not to give predatory home loans to people without going through the fine print. 

And Obama-era guidelines weren’t the only ones Sessions withdrew. He also rescinded George W. Bush-era documents that reminded all Americans after 9-11 that discrimination on the basis of national origin is wrong.

The AG reached even further and nixed a Gerald Ford-era guide intended to keep kids out of adult prisons—and out of prison entirely for age-related offenses like truancy and drinking.

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Rescinding these documents didn’t make any new laws or repeal any old ones; the guides just sought to make existing law better understood. However, earlier this summer, the AG didwade into the law itself when he raised the bar for asylum seekers—mostly women—and took immigration decisions into his own hands and out of the courts.

In early June, Sessions ruled that domestic violence was, like gang crime, a “private crime,” meaning its survivors are not considered members of any particular, at-risk social group. In an already decided case, he called on asylum seeker Aminta Cifuentes to prove that the Guatemalan government actively condoned what he called “private violence” when state police and law enforcement refused to intervene, even after her rapist husband doused her in turpentine and tried to set her alight.

In so-doing Sessions reversed a prior ruling on her case by an immigration appeal board. 

On July 3, Sessions called the guidelines he rescinded outdated. So what date does he think this is? The eve of a pro-white, pro-male, anti-immigrant, anti-democratic, slave-owning nation? Just how far does AG Sessions want to set back the clock? 

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders is the award-winning host and executive producer of The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally-syndicated TV and radio program that looks at real-life models of shifting power in the arts, economics and politics. Flanders founded the women’s desk at media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and produced and hosted the radio program CounterSpin for a decade. She is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species. Flanders was named Most Valuable Multi-Media Maker of 2018 in The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, and was awarded the Izzy Award in 2019 for outstanding achievement in independent media.

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