The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent agency charged with advising Congress and the president, has launched a two-year investigation into civil rights practices at several federal agencies under the Trump administration, including the Education Dept. (DoEd)..
The commission plans to take a closer look at civil rights enforcement across the government, including the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.
The panel is particularly concerned that the Trump administration is seeking to cut the budgets of the civil rights arms of these agencies
The review will examine the degree to which current budgets and staffing levels allow civil rights offices to perform their statutory and regulatory functions, the management practices in place in the offices and whether these practices are sufficient to meet the volume of civil rights issues within the offices’ jurisdiction, and the efficacy of recent resolution efforts from the offices.
- Department of Education – The proposed budget calls for reducing staffing by 7% (losing 46 full time equivalent positions) at the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which investigates sex, race, disability, and age based civil rights complaints. The proposed budget itself reflects that the cutbacks would result in an untenable caseload of 42 cases per staff member. These proposed cuts are particularly troubling in light of DoEd Secretary Betsy DeVos’ repeated refusal in congressional testimony and other public statements to commit that the Department would enforce federal civil rights laws.
- Department of Labor – The administration has proposed to reduce staffing levels at the Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) by nearly 23%. The administration also proposes merging OFCCP, which monitors and enforces civil rights laws among federal contractors, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). OFCCP and EEOC have distinct missions, and folding a reduced-staff OFCCP into EEOC while at the same time not providing additional resources to EEOC will lead to significant reductions in the capability to monitor civil rights compliance efforts among federal contractors and at best compromise the EEOC’s ability to satisfy its already extant civil rights enforcement functions.
- Health and Human Services Dept. – The proposed budget calls for a 15% cut and a 10% staff reduction to the Office of Civil Rights, the office charged with investigating civil rights violations in healthcare settings.
- Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – The proposed budget eliminates federal funding ($351M) for LSC. LSC is a private non-profit organization established by Congress to support civil legal aid for low income Americans. Access to counsel is crucial to ensuring the fair administration of justice. Any reduction in the availability of these services, which are already insufficient to meet the needs of low-income Americans, indicates that fewer just and fair outcomes would be secured.
“The commission has grave concerns about continuing signals from the current administration, including the president’s proposed budget and statements of cabinet and senior administration officials, that the protection and fulfillment of civil rights of all persons will not be appropriately prioritized,” the commission said in a statement.
Info: https://goo.gl/MLP8SC (report).