Posted by Alexander Davis
Thomas E. Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that he is expanding civil rights enforcement in the areas of employment, voting, and housing, and revamping the division's hiring process.
The Civil Rights Division is the nation's leading civil rights enforcement agency and handles most federal anti-discrimination litigation. However, in recent years The Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups that monitor the division have expressed concern about itsinadequate enforcement of civil rights laws and political interference in its hiring policies.
"We've stepped up enforcement across the board and we're focusing enforcement not simply on quantity, but on quality of cases filed and maximizing the number of people we can help," said Perez.
The Civil Rights Division under Perez has a created new Fair Lending Unit to fight discrimination. And last month the division reached a landmark settlement that will award monetary relief to 2,500 African-American borrowers who were subjected to excessive fees during the housing boom. In addition, the new hate crimes law has made the division available as a resource to law enforcement agencies prosecuting hate crimes, and the division is currently working to train local, state, and regional law enforcement on the new statute.
On the voting rights front, the division's Voting Section is preparing for the upcoming round of legislative redistricting that will follow the 2010 Census. The Voting Section is also preparing guidance for the 2010 mid-term elections so that states and government agencies understand their obligations.
"[T]he Civil Rights Division is again open for business and we are indeed using all of the tools in our law enforcement arsenal, including litigation, education, outreach, and numerous forms of technical assistance," said Perez. "As Senator Kennedy said, civil rights remains the unfinished business of America."