WASHINGTON – Ahead of Attorney General nominee William Barr’s confirmation hearings next week, civil rights organizations held a press call today to discuss the Department of Justice’s important civil rights enforcement role and the need for the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine whether Barr is committed to upholding the civil rights of all people.
A recording of today’s call is available here.
Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “Under former Attorney General Sessions, we saw nearly unbridled disdain for the Justice Department’s vital role as the nation’s primary agency for protecting people’s rights. For nearly two years, Sessions destroyed families and communities by attacking voting rights, restarting the War on Drugs, failing to enforce constitutional policing policies, rolling back protections for LGBTQ individuals, and justifying officials separating children from their parents and locking immigrant children in cages. William Barr’s record suggests more of the same. Our families and communities deserve better and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an obligation to seek assurances from Mr. Barr that he will not be Sessions 2.0.”
Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., said, “If confirmed, William Barr will inherit the abominable legacy of Jeff Sessions, who established policies that undermined and attacked the civil rights of communities of color. The Trump Justice Department has dismantled racial diversity efforts and rescinded guidance on racial disparities in school discipline and special education, promoted voter suppression, and abdicated its obligation to protect the civil rights of persons who encounter the criminal justice system. Senators must determine whether Barr will continue to weaponize the Justice Department and eviscerate civil rights protections or whether his record suggests that he can repair and restore integrity and fairness to the Justice Department and ensure that all persons are treated equally under the law.
Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Trump is appointing someone who has long been a cheerleader for mass incarceration and the war on drugs. It shows the Administration’s true colors and undermines any recent criminal justice reforms. During this nomination process, I hope that Senators from both parties take Barr to task for his retrograde views on drug policy and criminal justice, instead of giving him an easy ride like they did with Jeff Sessions.”
Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center, said, “William Barr’s own track record and his unmitigated support for former Attorney General Sessions is cause for serious alarm. In his own right, Barr has supported border militarization, criminalization of migrants, and subjecting vulnerable populations of HIV+ Haitian asylum seekers to indefinite detention. His open praise for Sessions — from explicitly supporting the first and most egregious version of Trump’s Muslim ban to implicitly supporting policies to turn immigration judges into mass deportation agents and forcibly cage thousands of children in order to coerce their parents to abandon their legal right to claim asylum — shows he will continue to weaponize the role of the DOJ and Attorney General to devastate the rights of those who most need its protection.”
Sharon McGowan, legal director and chief strategy officer of Lambda Legal and former senior official in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said, “Jeff Sessions transformed the Department of Justice from a guardian of civil rights into a weapon of discrimination and bigotry, and William Barr has made clear that he is eager to pick up where Sessions left off. As Attorney General under George H.W. Bush, Barr defended what CBS News described as ‘the world’s first and only detention camp for refugees with HIV’ and only just a few weeks ago, William Barr ‘saluted’ Jeff Sessions for his efforts to nullify legal protections for LGBT people. The Department of Justice needs new leadership to get it back in the business of defending civil rights and equal justice under law for all people. William Barr, through his own words and actions, has proven himself unworthy for this important role.”
In addition to this call, 75 civil rights, religious, and progressive groups sent a letter to the Senate last month expressing serious concerns about Barr’s nomination to be U.S. Attorney General. The letter can be read here.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multidisciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.
Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.