Letter to President Trump on Civil Rights Enforcement

June 5, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national advocacy organizations, and the 106 undersigned organizations, we stand united in expressing our profound concern that the civil and human rights of all Americans are being drastically undermined by your administration’s proposed deep cuts to key civil rights office budgets, the withdrawal of numerous important civil and human rights policies, and the appointment of officials who appear bent on retreating from statutory civil and human rights agency priorities. We call upon your administration to reverse these disturbing trends, and to demonstrate a far greater commitment to the civil and human rights of all people in this country and to the federal laws created to protect them.

Extending equal opportunity in education, employment, housing; protecting the right to vote; reducing hate violence and racial disparities in the criminal justice system; preventing discrimination in health care; and advancing economic security are not simply legal obligations that your administration must meet. Our nation’s civil and human rights laws are a testament to who we are today as a country, a sign of the tremendous progress we have made throughout our history, and a pledge we make to future generations to continue moving ever closer to our ideals of fairness and equity for all. For decades, and for compelling reasons, the vigorous enforcement of these laws has been a core federal responsibility, and should never be seen as optional or as a matter of politics.

Our concerns were recently exemplified by an article in The Washington Post, detailing recent steps your administration has taken to retreat from our nation’s longstanding commitment to civil rights enforcement. The examples cited in that article – such as the proposed elimination of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the end of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency, and threats of drastic staff cutbacks in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights – are only the most recent signs that your administration is engaged in a significant rollback of civil rights enforcement. They build upon a record that already borders on the unconscionable, which includes a discriminatory Muslim ban, limits on the use of consent decrees to reform troubled police departments, the revival of a failed war on drugs, support of an intentionally racially discriminatory voter ID law, the formation of an illegitimate “election integrity” task force to attempt to justify voter suppression efforts, increased prosecutions and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood, the signing of an executive order that endorses discrimination under the guise of religious liberty, freezes on affirmative litigation, and the rollback of guidance clarifying protections for transgender students.

We were stunned to hear a White House spokesperson claim, in the Post article, that your administration “has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans.” Your administration’s actions to date demonstrate the opposite. We urge you to reverse course, before more individuals and communities are harmed, by resolving to take the following steps:

  • Enforce the law. Federal agencies must vigorously respond to complaints of civil and human rights violations, and must uphold the vital federal role of enforcing our civil and human rights laws and ensuring vulnerable communities are protected from discrimination.
  • Preserve existing policies. In recent years, federal civil rights offices have issued numerous policies and procedures to clarify the obligations of affected individuals, employers, and governmental entities under federal civil and human rights laws. These must be maintained.
  • Nominate and appoint qualified individuals. We urge you to ensure that individuals chosen to lead civil rights offices have a demonstrated record of support for federal civil rights laws and marginalized communities. Individuals who are unfamiliar with or hostile to our nation’s civil rights laws and their purpose have no place leading offices charged with protecting people from discrimination.
  • Prioritize data collection. A key component of civil rights enforcement, in many agencies, is continuing to collect, and make available to the public, disaggregated data to determine existing patterns and to promote better future compliance with federal hate crime and nondiscrimination laws.
  • Condemn bigotry and violence. Law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations have documented a significant increase in bigotry and hate crimes. We urge you to establish a White House hate crime task force to coordinate federal agency response. You and all members of your administration should use your bully pulpit to clearly condemn bias-motivated violence and bigotry targeting people based on race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability at every opportunity.

Our vision of an America as good in practice as it is in promise is fundamentally undermined by your administration’s apparent agenda of nothing less than an all-out, systemic assault on the progress our country has made since the New Deal. Our nation should honor equal protection for all, view its diversity as its strength, and strive to be an inclusive place where all in America can live, work, study, and participate in our democracy as free and equal people. We call on you and your administration to take affirmative steps to halt the problematic policies and initiatives we have outlined, and to provide positive leadership on these issues in order to promote inclusion and respect for the basic rights and dignity of every person in America.

Sincerely,

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

9to5, National Association of Working Women

A. Philip Randolph Institute

American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Unions (AFL-CIO)s

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

American Federation of Teachers

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Americans for Financial Reform

Amnesty International USA

The Andrew Goodman Foundation

Anti-Defamation League

The Arc of the United States

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC

Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)

Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Brennan Center for Justice

Center for American Progress

Center for Community Change Action

The Center for Constitutional Rights

Center for Law and Social Policy

Center for Reproductive Rights

Center for Responsible Lending

Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism-California State University, San Bernardino

Common Cause

Communications Workers of America

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Equal Justice Society

Equality Federation

Family Equality Council

Feminist Majority

FreeState Justice

GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

GLSEN

Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights First

interact

Interfaith Action for Human Rights

Interfaith Alliance

International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies

Justice in Aging

Lambda Legal

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

League of United Latin American Citizens

League of Women Voters of the United States

Legal Aid at Work

MALDEF

Matthew Shepard Foundation

Muslim Advocates

NAACP

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.

National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)

National Association of Social Workers

National Bar Association

National Black Justice Coalition National CAPACD

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Center for Youth Law

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

National Council of Churches

National Council of Jewish Women

National Council of La Raza

The National Council on Independent Living

National Disability Rights Network

National Education Association

National Employment Law Project

National Employment Lawyers Association

National Fair Housing Alliance

National Health Law Program

National Hispanic Media Coalition

National Immigration Law Center

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National LGBTQ Task Force

National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)

National Organization for Women

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Urban League

National Women’s Law Center

OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates

OutServe-SLDN

People For the American Way

PFLAG

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

PolicyLink

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

SALDEF

SEARAC

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

The Sikh Coalition

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southern Poverty Law Center

Union for Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Whitman-Walker Health

Women of Reform Judaism

YWCA USA