Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), one of the most virulently anti-immigrant members of Congress, surprised attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) with a meet-and-greet event in one of the conference’s breakout rooms on Friday. During the event, Sessions employed the populist, pro-American worker rhetoric he and his allies in the organized anti-immigrant movement have frequently used to advance their restrictionist immigration agenda.
Breitbart News announced that it had organized the event, which was co-sponsored with several other far-right and anti-immigrant organizations including Tea Party Patriots, Eagle Forum, and NumbersUSA. Accordingly, several NumbersUSA staff members were in attendance, such as Director of Government Relations Rosemary Jenks and Director of Content and Activism Chris Chmielenski. James Edwards Jr., a NumbersUSA lobbyist and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) fellow, was also present.
Other representatives from nativist organizations in the audience included Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) communications director Bob Dane and Frank Gaffney – the anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and president of the Center for Security Policy.
Sen. Sessions and these nativist leaders used each other to validate and amplify their shared messages and agenda.
When asked by Frank Gaffney how he suggests approaching border security, Sen. Sessions first took time to thank Gaffney for his work and writings on the issue before echoing Gaffney’s concerns and policy stances. Similarly, Sen. Sessions expressed gratitude for the work of NumbersUSA and Rosemary Jenks after she asked how the audience could assist the Senator in his efforts.
Further emphasizing this collaboration and mutual appreciation, Jenks emphatically proclaimed, “amen!” after Sen. Sessions introduced his communications director as a “great communications warrior.”
Here at Imagine 2050, we have noted how disingenuous it is for Sen. Sessions to present himself as a champion for American workers, as he did on Friday. However, It is especially insidious for him to do so when just 24 hours before his CPAC appearance he voted against a motion to proceed to debate on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Sen. Sessions was one of only two Senators to vote “no” on this motion. With that vote, Sen. Sessions expressed a clear approval for a shutdown that would force unnecessary financial pressures on approximately 240,000 employees who will be either furloughed or forced to work without pay. Unfortunately, the government shutdown of 2013 demonstrated the devastating impacts of a shutdown on American workers.
For Sen. Sessions, it seems easy to ignore these unfortunate realities – and his own apparent hypocrisy – when prominent figures within movements of organized bigotry are there to support him and publicly cheer him on.