By Sarrah N. Lynch
August 01, 2017
WASHINGTON — A leading Senate Democrat on Tuesday accused U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions of concealing policy recommendations that could change how the Justice Department enforces laws on illegal immigration, drug trafficking and violent crime.
In a letter to Sessions, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden said the Justice Department should release recommendations made by the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, noting that the policy changes could end up hurting Americans.
“These [Justice Department] decisions could have dramatic and wide-ranging consequences for Americans’ daily lives,” Wyden wrote, noting that the task force’s work could impact everything from marijuana and asset forfeiture policies to hate crimes, immigration and human trafficking.
“Yet Americans remain in the dark about the content of the task force’s recommendations.”
The Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety was established through an executive order by President Donald Trump in February. Names of those serving on the task force have not been published, and the group was supposed to deliver its recommendations by July 27.
In a public statement last week, Sessions said he had received recommendations “on a rolling basis” and he had already “been acting on the task force’s recommendations to set the policy of the department.”
A Justice Department spokesman referred to Sessions’ prior statement when asked for comment, saying the department will “make announcements on policy changes as appropriate.”
The department has already announced a few policy changes that stem from the task force’s work.
Earlier this month, for instance, the department said it plans to reinstate a controversial civil asset forfeiture program that lets local police departments seize cash from people without first charging them with a crime, even if their states do not condone such a policy.
The policy had been rolled back during the Obama administration amid concerns it was allowing the government to take away peoples’ property without due process.
In May, the department also undid another Obama-era policy to allow for tougher charges and longer prison sentences.
Wyden, whose state voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, said he was particularly concerned about the “secrecy shrouding” recommendations related to the drug.
Sessions has previously made critical comments about marijuana use.
“It is not the role of the Attorney General to unilaterally undermine the will of Oregon voters,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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