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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 03
Lambda Legal joins civil rights leaders for discussion of William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general
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Lambda Legal joins civil rights leaders for discussion of William Barr, Trump's nominee for attorney general

WASHINGTON, DC (January 14, 2019) - Ahead of attorney general nominee William Barr's confirmation hearings this week, Lambda Legal and other civil rights organizations held a press call to discuss the Department of Justice's important civil rights enforcement role and the need for the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine whether Barr is committed to upholding the civil rights of all people.

A recording of the call is available [at http://civilrightsdocs.info/audio/press-calls/Barr-Press-Call-011019.mp3].

Sharon McGowan, legal director and chief strategy officer of Lambda Legal and former senior official in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice, said, 'Jeff Sessions transformed the Department of Justice from a guardian of civil rights into a weapon of discrimination and bigotry, and William Barr has made clear that he is eager to pick up where Sessions left off. As attorney general under George H.W. Bush, Barr defended what CBS News described as 'the world's first and only detention camp for refugees with HIV' and only just a few weeks ago, William Barr 'saluted' Jeff Sessions for his efforts to nullify legal protections for LGBT people. The Department of Justice needs new leadership to get it back in the business of defending civil rights and equal justice under law for all people. William Barr, through his own words and actions, has proven himself unworthy for this important role.'

Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, 'Under former Attorney General Sessions, we saw nearly unbridled disdain for the Justice Department's vital role as the nation's primary agency for protecting people's rights. For nearly two years, Sessions destroyed families and communities by attacking voting rights, restarting the War on Drugs, failing to enforce constitutional policing policies, rolling back protections for LGBTQ individuals, and justifying officials separating children from their parents and locking immigrant children in cages. William Barr's record suggests more of the same. Our families and communities deserve better, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an obligation to seek assurances from Mr. Barr that he will not be Sessions 2.0.'

Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., said, 'If confirmed, William Barr will inherit the abominable legacy of Jeff Sessions, who established policies that undermined and attacked the civil rights of communities of color. The Trump Justice Department has dismantled racial diversity efforts and rescinded guidance on racial disparities in school discipline and special education, promoted voter suppression, and abdicated its obligation to protect the civil rights of persons who encounter the criminal justice system. Senators must determine whether Barr will continue to weaponize the Justice Department and eviscerate civil rights protections or whether his record suggests that he can repair and restore integrity and fairness to the Justice Department and ensure that all persons are treated equally under the law.

Michael Collins, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said, 'Trump is appointing someone who has long been a cheerleader for mass incarceration and the war on drugs. It shows the administration's true colors and undermines any recent criminal justice reforms. During this nomination process, I hope that senators from both parties take Barr to task for his retrograde views on drug policy and criminal justice, instead of giving him an easy ride like they did with Jeff Sessions.'

Avideh Moussavian, legislative director at the National Immigration Law Center, said, 'William Barr's own track record and his unmitigated support for former Attorney General Sessions is cause for serious alarm. In his own right, Barr has supported border militarization, criminalization of migrants, and subjecting vulnerable populations of HIV+ Haitian asylum seekers to indefinite detention. His open praise for Sessions - from explicitly supporting the first and most egregious version of Trump's Muslim ban to implicitly supporting policies to turn immigration judges into mass deportation agents and forcibly cage thousands of children in order to coerce their parents to abandon their legal right to claim asylum - shows he will continue to weaponize the role of the DOJ and attorney general to devastate the rights of those who most need its protection.'

In addition to this call, 75 civil rights, religious, and progressive groups sent a letter to the Senate last month expressing serious concerns about Barr's nomination to be US attorney general. The letter can be read [at http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/policy/letters/2018/Letter-of-concern-re-William-Barr-AG-12.20.18.pdf].

Courtesy of Lambda Legal

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