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Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Nomination of Grace Becker


Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Nomination of Grace Becker

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Ms. Becker, good afternoon, and welcome to the Committee.

You've been nominated to head the Civil Rights Division. The Division is one of the most important agencies in the federal government, and serves as the government's public and private voice on civil rights. Its historic mission has been to protect the civil rights of all Americans, especially those who are the most vulnerable, and to help our nation live up to our ideals of opportunity and justice for all.

Fifty years ago, the Division was created to provide more vigorous protection of civil rights. Since then, Justice Department lawyers have been on the front lines of civil rights struggles. The Division was at the forefront of battles to desegregate schools, and open the doors of opportunity to all children. It led the charge to protect voting rights and fair housing, and to break down the glass ceilings that unfairly limited opportunities in workplaces for women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.

Today's civil rights challenges are different from those of the past. New forms of discrimination have placed the "whites only" signs of the past. We know that civil rights is still the unfinished business of America. If we are not vigilant, we will lose ground, so there is still a need for a strong Civil Rights Division to continue the progress we've been making.

Unfortunately, in this Administration, the Division has failed to live up to its historic role. The Division that helped bring Jim Crow to his knees has now backed away from fully enforcing civil rights. Press reports and Congressional oversight hearings on the Division have shown that in recent years, politics has often dictated outcomes, and civil rights enforcement suffered. Equally disturbing, the Division's political leaders applied political tests to career professionals, and let partisan considerations affect personnel decisions ranging from hiring to case assignments and evaluations. Much of this conduct is still under investigation by the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility.

The next Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights will need to restore the Division's tarnished image and reassure the American people that their civil rights are being fully and fairly protected. The public must be confident that politics no longer trumps law enforcement, and that the Division has the strong leadership needed to correct the recent problems.

I look forward to today's hearing and to your testimony on these important issues.

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