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Civil rights groups changing tactics following Sessions loss

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is greeted by employees as he arrives at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — After failing to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions' confirmation, civil rights groups are now shifting their attention to monitoring his actions at the Justice Department and challenging President Donald Trump's other actions in areas of concern.

Sessions was sworn in at the White House Thursday despite furious opposition from civil rights activists who lobbied, marched and sometimes were arrested trying to slow down or stop the Alabama senator's confirmation.

But now that Sessions runs the Justice Department, civil rights groups are pivoting to monitoring the department and Sessions' actions.

"Should Sessions prove to be anything but a fair and impartial defender of liberty and justice, our community will hold him fully accountable," National Urban League President Marc Morial said.

The NAACP, whose leaders have been arrested protesting Sessions' nomination, said in a statement it would ask Congress to monitor Sessions carefully "to ensure that the senator does what he is supposed to do to protect the vote and to end voter suppression and police brutality."

The League of United Latin American Citizens said it would also be watching.

"At a time when the Latino community feels increasingly under threat from the policies of the Trump administration, Sessions' confirmation offers little comfort," said Brent Wilkes, the group's national executive director. "LULAC will continue to hold Attorney General Sessions accountable to the law he has sworn to uphold."

The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed Sessions on a nearly party-line vote on Wednesday evening. But the congressional lobbying does not end with Sessions' confirmation, said Rashad Robinson, Color of Change's leader.

For example, Robinson said he would put pressure on Democrats to make sure funding for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is not eliminated. That is the division charged with fighting discrimination and upholding civil and voting rights across the United States.

Senators should "refuse to surrender funding for the DOJ's Civil Rights Division," he said. "We will tell Attorney General Sessions this: when it comes to our fundamental rights, there are no hostage negotiations."

Other groups are stepping up in different arenas.

People for the American Way, another advocacy group, plans to turn toward the confirmation fight over Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. "It's more important than ever that we have an independent Supreme Court that will stand up for the rule of law," said Marge Baker, the group's executive vice president.

And the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has sued the Trump administration over his executive order temporarily barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from coming to the United States.

The lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C. federal court. Other federal courts are also hearing challenges to Trump's executive order.

"By singling out particular groups, the executive order stands as an open invitation for illegal profiling of minority and religious communities on the basis of race, national origin and religion right here in the United States," said Kristen Clarke, the Lawyers' Committee's president and executive director.

Sessions' confirmation doesn't mean that the battle has ended, said Marbre Stahly-Butts, director of partnerships with Law for Black Lives and member of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table.

"We will continue doing what we've always done," Stahly-Butts said. "We will resist, fight and build our communities with dignity and a vision for the future that includes thriving communities for our people, and freedom from systemic racism and oppression for all people."

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Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. Contact him at jholland@ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland

 

 
 

 

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