Saturday, June 9, 2012

Conyers Praises Attorney General Holder’s Record on Voting and Civil Rights

(WASHINGTON)—Today, Attorney General Eric Holder testified at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice.  Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement following the hearing.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I applaud Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice for its aggressive enforcement of voting and civil rights laws,” said Conyers.  “Conservatives on this committee have characterized the Department of Justice’s challenge to state voter laws as ‘politically motivated.’  But under the Voting Rights Act, prescribed states and jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices towards protected classes must obtain preclearance before voting and redistricting changes can be implemented.  The Department of Justice is correct to use its enforcement authority to address these attacks on voting rights and other ongoing civil rights issues. 

·         Enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  The Department has aggressively enforced Section 5, which ensures that states with a history of discrimination cannot create additional barriers to minority access to the ballot box.  The Department has already blocked discriminatory voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.

·         Stopping illegal “purges” of the voting rolls.  Last week, the Voting Section wrote to the State of Florida demanding that they cease and desist from “purging” voters from the rolls.  The practice was not submitted to the Department under Section 5, and would not have been approved if it had been.

·         Protecting the voting rights of members of the Armed Services.  The Department has secured court orders and consent decrees in 14 jurisdictions to better enforce the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. 

·         Restoring the integrity of the Civil Rights Division.  After the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility completed their review of illegal, partisan hiring practices under the last Administration, their final report included recommendations for improved, transparent hiring process at the Civil Rights Division.  Under the leadership of AssistantAttorney General Tom Perez, the Division has fully adopted each of those recommendations—and is now predominantly staffed by attorneys with actual experience in the field of civil rights law.

·         Enforcing the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  The Department’s $335 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation last December compensated families who were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin.  This enforcement action makes clear that the Department will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable for lending discrimination.

“Lastly, it is unfortunate that some conservative members chose to spend their allotted time criticizing the attorney general, rather than listening to the facts regarding Operation Fast and Furious, a failed ‘gun walking’ operation conceived by agents assigned to a local ATF field office and individuals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.  Perhaps if they took the time to listen to Mr. Holder’s response, they would realize the attorney general has been exceedingly accommodating to requests for information by this and other congressional committees.  To date, the Department of Justice has provided over 7,600 pages of documents to Congress.  It has made additional law enforcement sensitive materials available to Congress in dozens of briefings.  Senior Department officials have been questioned in hearings and transcribed interviews.  The attorney general has testified before multiple congressional committees about this issue.  In fact, today marks his eighth appearance before a congressional committee this Congress.  I find it hard to characterize his and the Department of Justice’s actions as ‘stonewalling.’”

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