Promoting Civil Rights and Fighting Discrimination in the 21st Century
Today in Charleston, SC, Hillary Clinton will announce her agenda to fight discrimination as President and to restore the federal government's historic role as a champion of civil rights. She will focus on renewing and strengthening the Department of Justice's civil rights mission. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. It also marks the seventh year of a concerted effort by the Bush Administration to turn the Civil Rights Division away from its historical mission and its traditions of professionalism, and toward an agenda driven by partisanship, cronyism, and ideology. As President, Hillary Clinton will take five specific steps to undo the damage done under President Bush and Attorney Generals Gonzales and Ashcroft, to advance civil rights, and to end discrimination.
1. Save the Civil Rights Division from eight years of the Bush Administration. Hillary will:
* Direct the Attorney General to submit - within 90 days of taking office - a report that recommends how to rebuild DOJ's traditional role in defending civil rights and the rule of law, and that reviews charges of improper, politically motivated hiring to determine whether laws were broken.
* Restore professionalism and remove politics from hiring, case deliberations, and policy decisions across the Department of Justice.
* Increase funding for the Civil Rights Division by $30 million.
2. Help local school districts pursue voluntary integration and reduce racial inequality, in the face of a reactionary Supreme Court. Hillary will:
* Direct the Attorney General to appoint teams of EOE (Equal Opportunity in Education) consultants and deploy them to advise local school districts who want to design the most effective and proactive voluntary integration programs permitted under the Supreme Court's recent ruling.
* Provide $10 million to help school districts implement these plans.
3. Strengthen our voting laws so that every citizen can fully exercise his or her constitutional right to vote. Hillary will:
* Sign the Count Every Vote Act into law.
* Combat voter ID laws that have a disproportionate negative impact on minorities.
* Extend voting rights to citizens of D.C.
4. Combat ongoing racial and sex discrimination in the labor market by improving laws and expanding enforcement. Hillary will:
* Fully fund and reverse the staffing cuts to the EEOC and strengthen the employment section of the Civil Rights Division.
* Sign into law the Paycheck Fairness Act to end gender discrimination in pay.
5. Modernize and strengthen the federal hate crimes law. Hillary will:
* Sign into law the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Details of Hillary Clinton's DOJ Civil Rights Enforcement Agenda
1. Save the Civil Rights Division from eight years of the Bush Administration. The nation's top civil rights enforcement office offers a stark example of the Bush Justice Department putting politics ahead of the rule of law.
Political cronies have moved in, career attorneys have been pushed out: The Attorney General reversed a decades-old DOJ policy by eliminating non-partisan hiring panels and letting political appointees run the hiring process. These appointees chose Bush partisans over real professionals. The percentage of new hires with civil rights experience was cut almost in half from 77% to 42%. [Boston Globe, July 23, 2006.] A senior Bush official in the division boasted to friends about hiring Republicans to supposedly even things out. [Wall Street Journal, Aug. 28, 2007.] And to date, four career section chiefs have resigned (including a 35-year veteran responsible for enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act), along with two deputy chiefs, and 15 out of 35 attorneys in the voting rights section. [LCCR Education Fund Report, Sept. 2007; McClatchy, May 6, 2007.]
The Bush DOJ turned the idea of voting rights on its head. Over a five-year period from 2001 to 2006, not a single voting discrimination case was brought on behalf of an African-American or Native-American voter. Instead, over the objections of career staff, political appointees supported "anti-voter fraud" efforts that place additional burdens on poor and minority voters, including a Georgia provision twice enjoined by a federal court for creating illegal barriers to voting. U.S. Attorneys across the country were reportedly pressured to pursue voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or likely Democratic voters and U.S. Attorneys Iglesias and McKay were fired after they found insufficient merit to pursue the allegations. [LCCR Senate Testimony, June 21, 2007; Boston Globe, May 6, 2007; Washington Post, May 14, 2007.]
Political appointees have run roughshod over the Division's other traditional missions: In the past six years, DOJ reportedly filed the same number of Title VII cases that the Clinton administration filed in its first two years. [LCCR Senate Testimony, June 21, 2007.] And the number of race-based housing discrimination cases has fallen by more than half. [Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund Report, Sept. 2007.]
The Bush budget has neglected the Civil Rights Division. The number of positions has not grown since President Bush took office. Under President Clinton, the Civil Rights Division's staff grew by 40% - more than 200 officials and attorneys.
Hillary Clinton will restore the Civil Rights Division's political independence, professional pride, and traditional priorities. She will:
* Direct the Attorney General to submit - within 90 days of taking office - a Report on Restoring Professionalism and Confidence in the Department of Justice, to address the crisis of confidence created by the Bush Administration's political meddling in the DOJ and the firing and hiring of career officials for partisan reasons. The report would recommend how to restore DOJ's traditional role in civil rights and the rule of law, and would review charges of improper, politically motivated hiring to determine whether laws were broken. Within 90 days after submission of the report, Hillary will provide the money and manpower to fulfill the report's recommendations.
* Restore professionalism and remove politics from hiring, case deliberations, and policy decisions across the Department of Justice by: restoring an independent professional hiring committee for all line attorneys; working to ensure that all new staffers, professional and political, have relevant experience in their areas of jurisdiction; and bringing professionals back into discussions about significant cases and policies.
* Increase funding for the Civil Rights Division by $30 million. Under President Clinton, the budget grew by roughly 75%. Under President Bush, it has grown by roughly 25%. The additional funds Hillary is calling for would allow the division to expand investigation and assessment as well as enforcement efforts.
2. Help local school districts pursue voluntary integration and reduce racial inequality, in the face of a reactionary Supreme Court. This past June, the Supreme Court placed severe restrictions on the voluntary efforts of local communities around the country to pursue greater racial equality in education. Four conservative Justices voted to slam the door shut on any meaningful local program designed for this important purpose. A fifth Justice, Justice Kennedy, rejected the voluntary plans of Seattle and Louisville and placed tight constraints on any school district seeking to take steps to redeem the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. But he did not bar these efforts outright. So today, local school districts around the country can choose to implement voluntary programs, but they have to tread very carefully to meet new standards. Hillary believes that the majority was simply wrong in this case. And when she is President, she will appoint Justices who understand the meaning of Brown and the meaning of the Equal Protection Clause. As President, she will also take concrete steps to help local school districts meet the tougher standards imposed by Justice Kennedy and continue their laudable efforts to promote voluntary integration. Specifically, she will:
* Direct the Attorney General to appoint teams of EOE (Equal Opportunity in Education) consultants and deploy them to advise local school districts who want to design the most effective and proactive programs permitted by law. These consultants - including DOJ attorneys, DOE staffers, and other experts - will work with school officials and civil rights groups to help districts structure voluntary integration plans that give students of different racial backgrounds maximum opportunity to attend school together, while still complying with the restrictions imposed by the recent Supreme Court ruling.
* Provide $10 million in new EOE Block Grants to help school districts design and implement these plans.
3. Strengthen our voting laws so that every citizen can fully exercise his or her constitutional right to vote. Hillary believes that voting is the most precious right of every citizen and that we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process and to guarantee all Americans a meaningful right to vote. She believes that the greatest democracy in the world should have a voting system that builds, not undermines, faith in our elections. As Senator, Hillary authored the Count Every Vote Act - called the gold standard of election reform bills - to address the problems that Americans, especially minorities and low-income voters, experienced in trying to vote and have their votes counted in past elections. As President, she will:
* Sign the Count Every Vote Act into law. This legislation redeems the voting rights of minority voters by:
o Guaranteeing equal access to polling stations - and equal distribution of voting machines - for all Americans, and requiring states to work to reduce wait times for voters.
o Creating a new federal crime for deceptive voter suppression tactics, such as sending flyers into minority neighborhoods telling voters the wrong voting date.
o Mandating "no-excuse absentee balloting," as well as fair and uniform registration and identification rules, including same day registration.
o Authorizing ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society to vote in federal elections.
o Creating and enforcing standards for purging voters to prevent voter disenfranchisement, so that we don't have a repeat of Florida in 2000.
o Making Election Day a federal holiday so that voters do not have to take time off of work.
* Combat voter ID laws that have a disproportionate negative impact on racial, ethnic, or language minorities. Hillary was one of two Senators to vote against the Help America Vote Act because of its onerous voter ID provisions.
* Extend voting rights to citizens of D.C. The House of Representatives has approved a bill that grants a House seat to D.C. The Senate will vote on the bill in the coming days, and Hillary proudly supports the bill. If D.C. does not have voting rights by the time Hillary becomes President, she will ask Congress to pass the bill, and she will sign it.
4. Combat ongoing racial and sex discrimination in the labor market by improving laws and expanding enforcement. Many young minority workers continue to face discriminatory treatment in the labor market. In a recent study, employers were twice as likely to hire a similarly qualified white applicant rather than a black applicant, and even hired white applicants with criminal records at the same or higher rates than black applicants without. [Pager and Western, Race at Work, 2007.] This discrimination offends the Constitution and undermines the notion of economic opportunity for all Americans. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has failed to effectively enforce our employment discrimination laws. The Administration has sapped morale and resources from the employment section of the Civil Rights Division, advocated a restrictive interpretation of Title VII in a recent Supreme Court case, and cut the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's workforce by 20%. To reverse this trend, Hillary will:
* Fully fund the EEOC. Restore leadership at the EEOC committed to policing the nation's employment discrimination laws, and to vigorously referring cases to DOJ for enforcement. President Clinton's Justice Department brought three times as many individual cases of employment discrimination as the Bush DOJ. [LCCR Senate testimony, June 21, 2007.]
* Sign into law the Paycheck Fairness Act to end gender discrimination in pay. African-American women today earn only $.72 for every dollar men earn.
5. Modernize and strengthen the federal hate crimes law. The hate crimes law currently on the books authorizes federal prosecution of those who use force or the threat of force to injure or intimidate a person (1) because of that person's race, religion, or national origin; and (2) because he or she has been attempting to engage in a federally protected activity, such as voting, attending court, or going to school. Most states also have hate crimes laws. As Senator, Hillary has consistently supported legislation to strengthen America's hate crimes law. President Bush has threatened to veto this legislation, should it pass the Senate. As President, Hillary will sign into law the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which:
* Eliminates the federally protected activity requirement and expands the list of protected categories. Hillary would make it a federal crime to cause or attempt to cause injury to another person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
* Offers federal assistance to help state and local law enforcement investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and creates a grant program to provide further help to local law enforcement to combat hate crimes.
* Protects state interests. Hillary would require that the federal government consult with local officials before bringing a federal case.