Friday, November 27, 2009

The ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights call for reform at the US Commission on Civil Rights

Long time readers of the blog will note that we've been talking about the ideological shift and politicization of the US Commission on Civil Rights for the last couple years. (See HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE). Through a series of Bush-era politically motivated appointments, the 8-member Commission is now composed of 4 staunch conservatives who are absolutely ideologically opposed to the goals and precepts of the American Civil Rights movement and 2 right-leaning 'quasi-independents'.

But at long last, the call for reform is now picking up steam. On November 18th, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the ACLU went to the Congress to call for dramatic reform within the agency.

The groups called for reforms that would broaden the commission's mandate so that it can better investigate and address civil rights issues and work to strengthen U.S. commitments on human rights. In particular, they are seeking a change in the way that members are appointed to the commission to ensure that commissioners remain independent. Currently, members are appointed by Congress and the president and are not required to undergo a confirmation process.

The commission was created with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 as an independent fact-finding body charged with investigating and reporting on civil rights and making recommendations to the federal government on how to fix the problems it uncovered. Through its fact-finding work, it helped lay the foundation for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Over the past few years, however, the commission has taken positions hostile to civil rights issues, such as opposing the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, urging the Senate to vote against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill, encouraging the elimination of school desegregation programs, and opposing the Employee Free Choice Act.

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