Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said Sessions is filling a leadership void as the GOP seeks to improve its image amid a crowd of other opponents who are afraid to speak up as clearly. “He’s not the kind of guy who looks in the mirror and sees a future president.”
Safely re-elected the past two elections, Sessions has little to worry about in Alabama. The issue runs hot there.
The number of illegal immigrants grew by nearly five times over the last decade, to about 120,000 in 2011, when unemployment hovered around 9 percent. The newcomers started to take jobs in chicken processing plants and in construction, stoking backlash.
In 2011, a year after Republicans captured both chambers of the Alabama Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, the state enacted the toughest immigration crackdown in the country, exceeding Arizona’s law passed a year earlier.
The law barred undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public colleges and allowed police to stop anyone and ask for documents showing their legal status. Schools and businesses had to check to see if students were legal. Advocates cast it as a job creation and protection bill. But major parts of the law, derided by critics as “Juan Crow,” were blocked by a federal appeals court.
Now the state looks to Washington, and to its native son.
“I didn’t look forward to this,” Sessions said. “It’s a very, very unpleasant duty. But I feel I have a duty to point out the weaknesses in this legislation. I’m not going to be part of legislation that will hurt American workers and will not live up to the promise of creating a lawful system for the future.”
Contact Alex Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @learyreports.