Last week, by majority vote, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged the 116th Congress to prioritize civil rights issues with its oversight and legislative activity, stating an urgent need to restore national commitment to civil rights principles.
“For over sixty years, Congress has mandated that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights advise Congress, the President and the American public on matters of civil rights policy; that mandate is as pressing now as it has ever been,” a press release stated. “The Commission’s recent evaluation of issues ranging from voting rights, to education equity, to workplace protections for LGBT individuals, to access to justice, among other critical areas, shows that Congress can and should do much more to ensure that all Americans’ civil rights are protected.”
While the Commission pressed Congress to take up all the recommendations of the Commission, they prioritized six in particular, both for immediate oversight investigations as well as legislative actions.
• Congress should investigate habitability conditions for children and adults1 as well as alleged abusive labor practices at government and privately operated immigration detention centers. In addition, Congress should investigate the status of family separation at the border, and what policies and practices are necessary to ensure that all separated families may be reunited.
• Congress should investigate the Department of Justice’s use of consent decrees and the impact on justice of the Department’s narrowing authority to use a civil rights enforcement tool that Congress has expressly provided to the Department. Congress should also investigate activity in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office to determine whether that office is active in offering its services.
• Congress should investigate the status of the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, and how well it accomplishes the work led by that office. Congress should also investigate the degree to which the Department of Justice enforces equal access to justice following Attorney General Sessions’ rescission of civil rights guidance concerning potential unconstitutional practices in the imposition of fines and fees.
• Congress should investigate the impact on justice following U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policy to site immigration enforcement agents at courthouses.
• Congress should investigate the potential civil rights impact of the Department of Commerce’s stated intention to place a citizenship question on the 2020 Census Questionnaire, including whether those potential impacts outweigh a Department interest in adding the citizenship question.
• Congress should evaluate the effectiveness of Department of Justice enforcement activity related to violent expressions of hate, to ensure respect for personhood remains a core component of the rule of law in this nation.
For more information, view the full U.S. Commission on Civil Rights memo HERE.