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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Oppose Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013 (H.R. 5326) H.R. 5326 Undermines Civil Rights Enforcement

Advocacy Letter - 05/09/12

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: The Honorable Harold Rogers and The Honorable Norm Dicks


The Honorable Harold Rogers
Chairman
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Norm Dicks
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Dicks:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 210 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States, we strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013.  H.R. 5326 has funding levels that are inadequate to ensure agencies’ abilities to fulfill their mandates to enforce civil rights laws and also contains harmful policy provisions that curtail agencies’ ability to enforce civil rights laws. We also urge you to oppose any extraneous riders or amendments that would undermine civil rights agencies’ important enforcement ability.

The spending levels will affect some of the most important civil rights enforcement offices in the federal government, whose work is profoundly important to the communities that we represent.  Across the government, the various civil rights agencies, investigate, redress, and enforce instances of discrimination, and provide guidance to individuals and businesses

about their rights and responsibilities under the law. The vitality and effectiveness of our nation’s civil rights laws depend upon the commitment and strength of the federal agencies charged with their enforcement; therefore, ensuring their adequate funding and protecting their ability to fulfill their mandates is essential.

The funding for fiscal year 2013 and succeeding years should be carefully aligned with the identified needs of each agency, taking into consideration the overall agency budget, civil rights statutory jurisdictions, complaint flow, complexity of case investigations and resolutions, needs and plans for proactive compliance reviews, and staff training and capacity-building needs, among other factors. However, H.R. 5326 fails to accomplish this, and The Leadership Conference opposes the bill. We are deeply concerned about the following:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The proposed funding level for the EEOC in H.R. 5326, is less than the FY 2013 budget request by the president. Full funding is critically necessary to help the EEOC investigate and fight discrimination against workers and unemployed individuals. Inadequate funding would limit the color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or genetic information.

o   We strongly oppose the rider in the underlying bill that would prohibit the EEOC from using FY 2013 funding to implement, administer, or enforce the EEOC’s final regulations on age discrimination. The rider would undermine enforcement of the nation’s age discrimination laws at a time when older workers are particularly vulnerable. Most significantly, it would preclude outreach to employers, particularly small businesses, to educate them to comply with age discrimination laws. The rider would also create uneven results, as lawyers, judges, and businesses muddle through old regulations.

o   We also oppose any amendments that would prohibit the use of funds to implement EEOC enforcement guidance that clarifies the use of criminal background checks by employers. The guidance is the result of a fair and thorough process and is consistent with the EEOC’s commitment to addressing discriminatory barriers to and in the workplace. The updated guidance will help balance the civil rights of workers and the legitimate concerns of employers about safety and security at the workplace.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC): The level of funding provided in H.R. 5326 for the LSC is $74 million below the FY 2013 budget request. This level of funding would severely hamper LSC’s ability to provide assistance to families to help solve civil legal challenges.

o   We oppose any amendment that would reduce or eliminate funding for the LSC, which cannot withstand further cuts to its budget. At a time when non-federal sources of funding are declining, requests for assistance are increasing (more than 60 million individuals living in the United States qualify for LSC-funded services). Fully funding the LSC would be an additional step toward meeting the need that exists because of the economic crisis, which has increased foreclosures, unemployment, and the number of people who are eligible for legal aid representation.

Census Bureau: The level of funding for the Census Bureau in H.R. 5326 is $92 million below the amount requested in the president’s budget. Census data assist federal agencies in monitoring discrimination and enforcing civil rights laws. Full funding for the Census Bureau would help ensure it can continue to provide accurate data about the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the American people on an ongoing, annual basis. Proposed cuts could significantly affect the Bureau’s ability to enumerate historically hard-to-count groups—including people of color, immigrants, the poor, young children, and rural residents—accurately.

Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division: The level of funding for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, in H.R. 5326 is less than the amount requested in the president’s budget.

o   We oppose the rider in the underlying bill that would prohibit the DOJ from enforcing regulations to increase access for people with disabilities to swimming pools.  This prohibition would set a dangerous precedent for civil rights enforcement and would mark the first time Congress has weakened enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is crucial to protecting core civil rights principles and ensuring that people with disabilities have the opportunity to participate fully in community life.

o   We oppose attempts to defund the DOJ’s ability to challenge state immigration enforcement laws. Limiting the DOJ’s ability to challenge state laws improperly interferes with the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, undermines the DOJ’s ability to investigate laws that effectively sanction racial profiling, and undermines federal immigration priorities.

In summary, we strongly urge you to oppose any amendment to H.R. 5326 that curtails civil rights enforcement and to oppose final passage due to its inadequate funding levels and provisions that weaken agencies’ ability to enforce civil rights laws.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Counsel Lexer Quamie at (202) 466-3648 or quamie@civilrights.org or Nancy Zirkin at (202) 466-3311 or  zirkin@civilrights.org. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President

Our Members