The Senate Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing last week to review the progress of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division since the confirmation of Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to lead the division almost two years ago.
The Civil Rights Division is the nation’s leading civil rights enforcement agency and handles most federal antidiscrimination litigation. Under Perez, the division has expanded civil rights enforcement in the areas of employment and housing.
“The work of the Civil Rights Division is uniquely important,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D. Del., in his opening statement before the committee. “It underpins our entire way of life because, where civil rights are not protected, equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are denied.”
Coons called specific attention to the division’s enforcement of equal and adequate access of all Americans to housing, lending, employment, and participation in civic life, specifically touching on the protection of service members from discrimination and the defense of the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans, and improved participation of disabled Americans in civic life.
Perez, the only witness at the hearing, cited the division’s success over the last two years, emphasizing significant accomplishments regarding human trafficking indictments, discrimination settlements, compliance with authorities on hate crime laws, and cases filed on behalf of servicemembers.
“Congress has an important role to play in oversight of all Executive Branch activities,” Coons said. “But when it comes to civil rights, it is critical that both branches are on the same page—that we are working together, hand in hand, to fight for that more perfect union.”