Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to be attorney general under President-elect Donald Trump could have lasting implications when it comes to civil rights in the United States, critics are warning.
According to The Washington Post, former Department of Justice officials are worried Sessions could make drastic changes in his position of power.
"From his time as U.S. attorney through his service on the Judiciary Committee, he has left serious doubts about whether he would faithfully enforce civil rights laws as attorney general," former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told the Post. "The civil rights division was gutted during the last Republican administration, and the burden of proof is on Senator Sessions to show that he would not follow that same path."
Sessions would take office amid racial tensions in the country stemming from several high-profile shootings involving African-Americans and police officers. There's also Trump's pledge to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records currently living in the U.S., estimated to be some 2-3 million people.
The last two attorneys general, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, are African-Americans.
"Senator Sessions brings experience, intelligence and passion to Justice," former Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben, who served under President Bill Clinton, told the Post. "Regrettably, it is likely to be exercised toward the attempted elimination of civil rights, environmental, and antitrust enforcement."
Sessions was the first member of the Senate to endorse Trump's presidential campaign, doing so in February. He's served as a close advisor to Trump since.
Sessions, however, was accused of making racist comments in the 1980s — allegations that cost him a chance at becoming a federal judge. He has always denied he made any racist remarks, calling the claims "ludicrous."
The other civil rights-related issue that could come into play involves Muslims. In the past, Trump has called for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims entering the U.S. out of national security concerns. There has also been talk of creating a Muslim registry, and retired Navy SEAL Carl Higbie even cited the Japanese internment camps of World War II while justifying such a registry.
Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly shot back at Higbie during an interview Wednesday, to which Higbie replied he was not advocating the detainment of Muslims in the U.S.
"[I'm] not proposing that at all, but what I am saying is we need to protect America first. There is precedent for it and I'm not saying I agree with it," he said.
It's unclear where Sessions lies on the issue, but Politico noted this week that a Muslim registry wouldn't be illegal under U.S. law.
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