Sessions himself, as chair of the Senate’s subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, has repeatedly presented Muslim immigration to the United States in menacing terms.
In September 2015, in a press release and chart describing Middle Eastern migration to Latin America and the U.S., Sessions’s office wrote that “about 1 in 40 of all migrants living in the U.S. today are from the Middle East or North Africa; however, that population has been rapidly growing. More than 1 in 10 of the annual permanent migrants resettled in the U.S. is a Muslim migrant.”
That same month, criticizing the Obama administration’s plan to admit more Syrian refugees, Sessions’ office pointed out that “Since 9/11, we have permanently resettled approximately 1.5 million migrants from Muslim nations inside the U.S.,” a refrain repeated by his office several times over the next few years. None of these releases specified why the religious beliefs of immigrants should be of particular concern.
In November of 2015, again attacking the Obama administration’s plan to admit Syrian refugees, Sessions made clear that his concerns were not limited to Syrian immigrants, tying them to concern that Muslim immigrants were particularly susceptible to radicalization.
“Each year, the U.S. permanently resettles more than 100,000 Muslim migrants inside the United States. In just the last year, refugees and migrants allowed into America from Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Kuwait and Bangladesh have been implicated in terrorism,” Sessions said. “And, as we have seen, the U.S.-born children of migrants are also at risk for radicalization.”
In November 2015, Sessions went even further––foreshadowing the Trump administration’s own talking points defending the ban––stating that he opposed resettling Syrian refugees in the United States because “it is an unpleasant but unavoidable fact that bringing in a large unassimilated flow of migrants from the Muslim world creates the conditions possible for radicalization and extremism to take hold.”
“Senator Sessions is one of the most, if not, the most, anti-immigrant senator in the U.S. Senate,” argued Farhana Khera, director of the civil-rights group Muslim Advocates. “He has a long record of demonizing non-white immigrants, especially Muslim and Latino immigrants.”
In September 2016, Sessions had an exchange with Simon Henshaw, the state department official in charge of its refugee program, who was testifying about the Obama administration’s approach to the Syrian refugee problem. Sessions asked Henshaw about “honor killings,” defined by the human rights group Amnesty International as “acts of violence against wives, sisters, daughters and mothers to reclaim their family honor from real or suspected actions that are perceived to have compromised it.”