Civil and Human Rights Must Be Advanced in 2022 and Beyond

Earlier this week, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released “Civil and Human Rights Progress Report: The Biden-Harris Administration and the 117th Congress,” an assessment of how far the administration and the 117th Congress have come — and how far they still have to go — in fulfilling our coalition’s civil and human rights priorities.

The report, which draws on the expertise of our 11 issue-based task forces, documents the progress made on a set of transition priorities that we released following the 2020 election. And while it outlines important leaps forward in ensuring an America that is as good as its ideals, it also urges the administration and lawmakers to address its significant unfinished business.

On President Biden’s first day in office, for example, we celebrated critical actions that we urged the president to take — including repealing the Muslim, African, and immigration bans and rescinding the previous administration’s orders setting out an unlawful plan to exclude noncitizens from the census and apportionment of congressional representatives. President Biden also issued the Executive Order “On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which was a momentous step that recognized the broad capabilities of the federal government to advance equity in our nation.

Over the course of the last year, the administration has made significant progress following four years of an administration committed to turning back the clock on civil and human rights. After President Trump and Senate Republicans stacked our federal courts with extreme, anti-civil rights judges, for example, President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin have already ensured confirmation of nearly four dozen diverse and highly qualified Article III federal judges — including many public defenders and civil rights lawyers like voting rights attorney Myrna Pérez. And the administration named civil rights champions to top roles in the Department of Justice, including our former president and CEO Vanita Gupta, the first woman of color and civil rights lawyer to serve as associate attorney general, and Kristen Clarke, the first woman confirmed to lead the Civil Rights Division and the first Black woman to hold the post.

Yet, more than a year into the Biden-Harris administration, we remain disappointed by a lack of urgency on dismantling inhumane immigration policies and practices, reforming the criminal-legal system, and ensuring that civil rights are front and center in the nation’s technology and AI policies. We hope the administration will prioritize these and other issues — which we’ve enumerated in our report — in the days and months ahead.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Biden underscored his support for some of our coalition’s outstanding priorities, including: protecting voting rights with passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act; protecting reproductive rights; passing the Equality Act, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, paid leave legislation, and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act; raising the minimum wage and extending the child tax credit; holding police officers accountable; expanding affordable access to child care, housing, higher education, broadband, and health care; and making our immigration system more humane, including by providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those with temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers.

We were also pleased that the president urged the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. President Biden’s nomination of Judge Jackson fulfilled his promise to nominate someone who has a strong commitment to our Constitution and has dedicated her career to equal justice — and we are looking forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of her nomination beginning March 21.

We also recognize that arcane Senate rules have obstructed progress on some of the issues outlined by the president in his address. Senate Republicans used the filibuster several times in 2021 to block voting rights legislation, and it was deployed again just this week to prevent consideration of the Women’s Health Protection Act — a critical step in ending restrictive abortion laws.

Until this and other civil rights legislation is passed and signed into law, we will continue to advocate for our coalition’s priorities and will score members of Congress in our annual Voting Record — which includes our full analysis of the first session of the 117th Congress.

While the state of our union is strong, the state of our civil and human rights must be stronger. In 2022 and beyond, we look forward to continuing to work with the Biden-Harris administration and with members of Congress to strengthen the civil and human rights of every person in the United States.