By: Senator Richard Shelby
When President Donald Trump nominated Jeff Sessions to serve as our United States Attorney General, there was no doubt in my mind that he was an excellent and wise choice. Not only has he been my colleague in the Senate with whom I have partnered for 20 years on behalf of the people of Alabama, but Jeff has become a dear friend. When you work with someone day in and day out, you truly get to know that person well. When I think about Jeff as a person and as a leader, there is one word that comes to mind: integrity.
Before joining the Senate, Jeff began his distinguished career as a practicing attorney, served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, and then served as the United States Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District before ultimately becoming the Attorney General of Alabama. Throughout his time as a skilled attorney, prosecutor, and legislator, Jeff has a proven record of fighting to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly under the law.
There is no question that Jeff has the necessary qualifications to serve as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer. However, more than that, I believe that he is the right man for the job at the right time.
For eight years under President Obama’s tenure in the White House, there were far too many times when the Administration blatantly disregarded the rule of law. Moreover, when it did so, the Department of Justice protected the political positions of the president instead of standing up for what is lawful.
The outcome of ignoring the laws of our land has been harmful for several reasons, one of the most damaging being that it has left the American people skeptical of their government. The integrity of our institutions and agencies is paramount, particularly when it comes to the Department of Justice. I believe that now is the time to restore the Department’s integrity.
One serious example of the Obama Administration ignoring the rule of law is on the issue of sanctuary cities. Over the past few years, I repeatedly urged Attorney General Lynch to put an end to federal funding for municipalities that deliberately obstruct federal laws to remove illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. After the tragic death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco, it became even more critical for action to be taken against sanctuary cities that blatantly ignore federal immigration policies.
Jeff and I share the simple principle on what the federal government’s policy towards sanctuary cities should be: local governments either follow the law and receive federal grant money, or protect criminal illegal immigrants with no federal assistance. America is a nation of laws, and the rule of law must be fully and fairly applied regardless of politics.
Meanwhile, more than 520,000 immigration cases are backlogged at the Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, with an average of 907 days pending before the case is even heard by an Immigration Judge. Despite my efforts on the Appropriations Committee to increase federal funding to specifically hire more judges, it still takes the Department an average of 480 days to hire one judge, and sometimes as long as 698 days. I am confident that Jeff will streamline the hiring process and fill the 82 vacant judge positions that have languished for so long.
I know that Attorney General Jeff Sessions firmly respects the rule of law, and his leadership at the Department of Justice will be a much-needed, refreshing change for the American people. As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, I look forward to continuing to work together to enforce our existing immigration laws and to address many other issues critical to our nation.
Richard Shelby has been representing Alabama in the United States Senate since 1987.