Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Roby and Sessions: Discriminating Against Companies Contracted to Secure Border is Unacceptable

April 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) today spoke with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

Representative Roby asked the Attorney General what the Department of Justice plans to do about the recent reports that some city and state governments have passed laws and ordinances to “blacklist” federal contractors because they wish to work on bolstering the infrastructure at the southern border, including the construction of a wall:

“I know you agree with me that it is vital that we secure our southern border and put an end to individuals crossing into our country illegally,” Roby said to Sessions. “We must also have a qualified workforce and experienced businesses that can operate without discrimination or retaliation for simply following the federal government contract directives of building a secure system, including a wall, along our southern border.

“How does the Department of Justice plan to respond to these state and local governments on this issue of discriminatory behavior?”

In his response, Attorney General Sessions made it clear that the Justice Department will not tolerate this behavior:

“We will not accept it. This is an unbelievable assertion of power… We don’t believe it’s sustainable legally, and we will challenge it wherever there is a case to be proven.”

The text of Representative Roby’s exchange with Attorney General Jeff Sessions as transcribed is below.

ROBY: Attorney General Sessions, thank you for being here this morning, and thank you for all that you do for our country.

I am proud to see that under your direction the Department of Justice has taken a strong stance to uphold and protect the laws of this nation. Specifically, the Department of Justice has been active in defending against Sanctuary City policies around our country for localities that fail to impose and enforce our nation’s immigration laws.

I think you would agree that Congress and only Congress has the power to change or alter our immigration laws – and not various local or state governments acting on their own beliefs.

Having said that, I want to discuss another issue regarding the actions of state and local governments interfering with private companies who are only following federal contracts.

Specifically, state and local government discrimination against federal contractors undermining the constitutional Supremacy Clause of the federal government.

As has been widely reported, city and state governments are passing laws and ordinances to blacklist federal contractors for doing their jobs – it is these companies from our State of Alabama and all across the country who have the opportunities to work on federal contracts, whether it is bolstering infrastructure for our southern border, maintenance on an Army Corps of Engineer project, or new construction on a military base.

I know you agree with me that it is vital that we secure our southern border and put an end to individuals crossing into our country illegally.

We must also have a qualified workforce and experienced businesses that can operate without discrimination or retaliation for simply following the federal government contract directives of building a secure system, including a wall, along our southern border.

Unless checked, emboldened state and local officials will further discriminate against companies that perform any number of critical national security tasks for the federal government. Similarly, discriminatory measures could easily multiply as state and local officials seek to deter the construction of anything they consider offensive to their own beliefs. 

Threatened by discrimination with these various types of legislation, private companies would understandably hesitate to play the many roles that the federal government asks them to play in delivering on the goods and services necessary to protect our national security interests, specifically securing our southern border.

So my question to you this morning, Attorney General Sessions, is when and how does the Department of Justice plan to respond to these state and local governments on this issue of discriminatory behavior?

SESSIONS: We’ve made it clear that is not acceptable. We will not accept it. This is an unbelievable assertion of power that a government within the United States – city, county, or state – can refuse or blacklist a contractor because they performed a lawful contract on behalf of the United States of America to make our country safer.

How can this possibly be? We don’t believe it is sustainable legally, and we will challenge it wherever there is a case to be proven. There has been a lot of talk about passing these laws, but some have passed, and it cannot be accepted. We are looking at what the legal remedies would be.

ROBY: We appreciate your work on this.

The last thing I want to say is thank you for your openness, willingness, and desire to focus on sex and human trafficking in our country. We know this is not a third world problem – although it is happening globally – it’s happening in our own backyards.

I want to thank you here in front of this subcommittee today for what you continue to do with the Congress to eradicate this modern-day slavery.

Thank you again for your service to our country. It’s great to have you here today.

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