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February 08, 2017

New Attorney General Jeff Sessions Should Honor his Pledges to Uphold the Law

New York City-- Human Rights First today urged the newly confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to enforce and uphold the law as he has pledged to do. The organization said that it will hold Sessions accountable for commitments he made during his confirmation hearings to enforce the ban on waterboarding and other forms of torture, to enforce hate crimes laws as they apply to all groups, including LGBT people, and to reject a religious ban on entry to the United States. The group also urged him to respect U.S. obligations to protect refugees and asylum seekers. Sessions was confirmed today by the Senate.
 
“Attorney General Sessions has said that he will uphold existing laws banning torture and protecting vulnerable minority groups regardless of his personal and political opinions. This is a commitment we will firmly hold him to,” said Human Rights First’s Sharon McBride. "We urge Attorney General Sessions to make clear that he will also uphold all U.S. law and treaty commitments that protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Protecting those who come to this country to escape extreme violence and persecution is a core American ideal. The United States is obligated to provide protection without discrimination and to ensure asylum seekers have their cases fairly heard."
 
During confirmation hearings Sessions failed to adequately address what steps he will take to make sure that the United States complies with U.S. treaty and legal obligations relating to refugee protection and to ensure that refugees have access to the U.S. asylum process. 
 
Human Rights First notes that Sessions’ past actions point to a lack of support for refugees, especially Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. Sessions has reported ties to several anti-immigrant, anti-refugee groups, and has expressed support for religious-based questioning for refugee admissions. In other past statements, Sessions expressed hostility toward the legal obligation of the United States to screen arriving individuals for protection claims if the individual expresses a fear of return to his home country. As a senator, Sessions repeatedly introduced legislation that would curtail due process for asylum seekers, including children.
 
“Discriminating against the world’s most vulnerable refugees based on their religion is an affront to everything that America stands for. In his new post, Attorney General Sessions must defend against policies that would institutionalize religious discrimination or scapegoat entire populations,” added McBride.
 
For more information or to speak with McBride contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at margolisme@humanrightsfirst.org or 212-845-5269.