Prominent Latino legal scholars and attorneys have joined over one thousand law school professors across the U.S. to publicly take a stand against one of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks.
As of Tuesday morning 1330 law professors from 177 different schools across the country had signed an open letter opposing Trump's decision to tap Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
"I was willing to sign the letter immediately," said Ian Haney López, a professor at the University of California Berkley Law School and prominent author and scholar. He said the letter focuses not only on Sessions' support of Trump during the election, but on his history.
"He is someone who presents immigration, especially from Latin America, as an existential threat to the nation," Haney López said. "That, for me, has traces of xenophobia and a racialized sense of who counts as an American and who belongs here. This shows that he believes that, somehow, the U.S. is a fundamentally white country, one which immigrants from non-white nations threaten to degrade or destroy."
The letter from the legal scholars states that in 1986 the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee rejected President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of then-U.S. Attorney Sessions for a federal judgeship. In a bipartisan vote, the committee stated that Sessions had made statements that "reflected prejudice against African Americans" and stated there was sufficient evident that he could not be impartial.
In a statement to NBC Latino, Sessions' office said the Senator has a "four-decade career in public service dedicated to upholding the rule of law, which is exactly what you can count on him to do as Attorney General."
"This is just business as usual for the same far-left academics who trot our letters opposing just about any conservative or Republican who’s nominated to a key position by a Republican president," said Sessions spokesman Sarah Isgur Flores. "Jeff Sessions enjoys wide support from law enforcement organizations to civil rights leaders to victims’ rights organizations and many others. He will be confirmed with both Democratic and Republican votes to be the next Attorney General.”
Jasmine B. Gonzales Rose, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law who signed the letter, said she worries that Sessions will not be able to remain neutral in work regarding race-based violence, voting rights and immigration.
Gonzales Rose said Sessions' support of repealing the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship, makes him a "zealous advocate" of an extreme point of view that had not entered mainstream American politics until Trump announced his candidacy.
"To repeal the 14th Amendment, which his a cornerstone of our constitutional law and our nation, is alarming," Gonzales Rose said. "There is concern about his interpretation of the Constitution."
Haney López said the senator's early support of Trump is "concerning" because Sessions also supports a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country, the construction of a wall on the southern border and increasing the rate of deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.