HRC commends the United States Commission on Civil Rights’ (USCCR) decision to investigate the Trump administration’s deliberate roll back of civil and human rights. The USCCR’s decision to investigate is based on “grave concerns” about the Trump administration’s proposed cut to spending and staffing on civil rights efforts at multiple agencies.
The USCCR approved a comprehensive two-year probe into the degree that current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform their statutory and regulatory functions, and whether these practices are sufficient to meet the volume of civil rights issues within the offices’ jurisdiction. The USCCR will focus the investigation on the Departments of Education, Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Legal Services Corporation. The Trump Administration budget included cuts that would greatly reduce the ability of these departments and agencies to enforce civil rights laws.
The departments subject to USCCR’s investigation have executed many civil rights rollbacks in the past five months. In February, the Departments of Education and Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has since relied on this recession as a rationale for closing long-running discrimination cases involving transgender students.
Furthermore, in March, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) withdrew two notices impacting LGBTQ people—a requirement for emergency shelters receiving HUD funding to post information about LGBTQ people’s rights to access shelter safely and in accordance with their gender identity and critical data collection and implementation guidelines for a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth. And just last week, the Department of Commerce (DoC) removed sexual orientation and gender identity from its equal employment opportunity (EEO) statement. Following negative backlash, the DoC added sexual orientation and gender identity back to their EEO statement, illustrating the impact of public pressure and the importance a review such as the one being conducted by USCCR could have.
In addition to this two-year probe, the USCCR will be examining best practices for collecting and reporting hate crimes and the roles of the Education and Justice Departments in prosecuting and preventing hate crimes. HRC has called for better reporting of hate crimes and improving efforts to prevent hate crimes. Last year, HRC advocated for increased funds for the DOJ Civil Rights Division and Community Relations Service in order to improve the government’s work preventing, responding to and prosecuting hate crimes.
Other USSCR priorities include an assessment of voting rights obstacles in the U.S., a survey of all 51 USCCR State Advisory Committees, and a review of the conditions of confinement of women in prison. HRC has been a strong proponent of improving voting rights by expanding and strengthening the government’s ability to respond to voting discrimination and of reforming our criminal justice system.
Earlier this month, HRC joined 104 other national groups in a letter to President Trump urging him to stop his administration’s systematic assault on civil and human rights. HRC applauds and stands behind the USCCR for taking these important steps to advance civil rights, hate crime enforcement, voting rights, and criminal justice reform.