LCCR ‘Disappointed’ by Passage of Homeland Security Bill Without Adequate Civil Rights and Worker Protections

Media 11.14,02

Today, Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil rights coalition, issued the following statement regarding passage of H.R. 5710, the Homeland Security Act.

“While this bill is an improvement over the Gramm/Miller substitute in the Senate, it does not go far enough to protect basic workers’ rights and civil rights,” said Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “While the final legislation recognizes the need for internal oversight by including a civil rights officer and a privacy officer in the new department, it does not go far enough to empower these officials to effectively protect civil rights and civil liberties.”

“Moreover, we are extremely concerned that the bill does not provide for a designated official within the Inspector General’s office to receive complaints regarding violations of civil rights and liberties. It is essential that this important duty be carried out by a person experienced in civil rights enforcement and who has the resources to be effective.”
“On the other hand, we are pleased that the final bill includes language barring the implementation of the proposed Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS) program. Such a program, designed to recruit volunteers, such as UPS and utilities workers, to report ‘suspicious’ activity to a central database, would be a serious threat to our constitutional rights to privacy and to be protected against unreasonable searches. Such a program also could adversely affect the fight against terrorism by wasting resources on useless tips, as well as encourage vigilantism and racial profiling. We are grateful that the homeland security bill prohibits the implementation by the government of a TIPS program.”

“With regard to the labor provisions, far from a compromise on the issue of workers’ rights, this bill contains provisions that will give the administration wide latitude to undermine the collective bargaining rights and civil service protections of the nearly 170,000 federal employees in the new department. Federal employees can now be fired without cause, whistleblowers in the agency will have little protection against retaliation, and unions will be powerless against abusive or self-protective political employees.”

“We also remain concerned about the impact of the bill on non-citizens, because the bill lacks coordination between immigration services and enforcement; fails to recognize the importance of impartial immigration judges; and needs stronger protections for unaccompanied children who arrive here after fleeing persecution or violence in their home countries.”

“Effective homeland security can be achieved while respecting our nation’s tradition of vigorous enforcement of civil rights, civil liberties, workers’ rights, and the rights of non-citizens. We are very disappointed that this bill does not go far enough toward ensuring that those rights are protected.”