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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

Executive Priorities for 2014

Advocacy Letter - 01/28/14

Source: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Recipient: President Barack H. Obama


Dear President Obama,

In advance of your State of the Union speech, we are writing on behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to share with you our executive and agency goals for the coming year. Our 15 task forces worked to develop a comprehensive list of issues that represent a path forward for this country in bringing change in all sectors – including the economy, employment, education, health care, and the criminal justice system.

The Leadership Conference believes that these important priorities are well-positioned for executive and agency action. Many of the items on our list have bipartisan support and many have emerged to address critical issues, such as voting rights, economic insecurity, immigration policy, and preventing discrimination in employment, education, contracting, and housing. While the list that follows does not reflect the complete agenda of all of our member organizations, it does highlight the issues that are at the top of the coalition’s agenda. We believe that these goals can and should be met by your administration.

The Leadership Conference looks forward to continuing to work with you to further these important goals. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Nancy Zirkin at zirkin@civilrights.org or 202-263-2880, or Corrine Yu at yu@civilrights.org or 202-466-5670.

Budget: Continue to work with Congress to:

  • Ensure that any budget agreement: (1) invests in job creation and avoids any actions that would cost jobs; (2) avoids benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP; (3) protects programs for low-income and vulnerable people and does not increase poverty and inequality; (4) stops the sequester; and (5) raises revenue by closing tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.
  • Extend federal emergency unemployment benefits, with investments in re-employment services, until the unemployment rate and long-term unemployment rate come down significantly.
  • Ensure the ongoing viability and sustainability of Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, and SSDI to provide access to all eligible individuals without restricting eligibility, reducing access to services and providers, or imposing unreasonable costs on enrollees. Oppose funding changes that will shift costs to enrollees, providers or states; or structural changes that would negatively impact the programs such as a block grant or per capita cap for Medicaid or transforming Medicare into a voucher program.

Census

  • Propose and advocate for sufficient funding to support early and thorough planning for the 2020 Census, to ensure that operational and technological innovations designed to contain overall census costs are robust and do not diminish efforts to address the persistent disproportionate undercount of populations of color and other historically harder-to-count population groups, such as immigrants, young children, and rural and low income households.
  • Ensure an accurate American Community Survey (ACS) by actively supporting continued mandatory response and full annual funding to ensure adequate sample size, and by implementing steps to ensure reliable, comprehensive measurement of smaller and special populations.
  • Pursue consensus-building efforts related to the collection of data on race, ethnicity, and national origin that include a broad range of stakeholders — especially in the civil rights community — to ensure that the 2020 Census, the American Community Survey, and other Census Bureau surveys collect and produce the most accurate, detailed, and useful information about the nation's diverse population.

Criminal Justice: Issue much-needed and delayed revisions to the 2003 Department of Justice profiling guidance on the use of race by law enforcement.

Economic Security and Jobs: Continue to work with Congress to:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 per hour, indexed for inflation, and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to at least 70 percent of the minimum wage.
  • Strengthen and expand income supports, including SSI, Social Security, TANF, nutrition assistance, child care, and child support.
  • Enact tax policies that make the tax system fairer and raise needed revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes, restoring more progressive tax rates, ending the preferential treatment of investment income, and restoring a meaningful estate tax. Reform tax expenditures to better serve low- and moderate-income taxpayers by permanently extending and expanding refundable tax credits.
  • Invest in job creation that builds the economy and meets pressing needs, including modernizing infrastructure (transportation, schools, broadband, water treatment, etc.); providing care (improve funding for home care services and related training and job quality measures); restoring public services (aid to states and localities to put teachers, first responders, and others back to work); manufacturing (especially relating to energy efficiency and renewables); and providing targeted assistance to underserved communities.

Education

  • Rescind the 2006 Title IX regulations regarding single-sex programs.
  • Update and re-release corrected guidance on Plyler v. Doe and nondiscriminatory admission practices.
  • Make permanent, annual, and universal the mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection and include cross-tabulation by gender and by Asian-American subgroups.
  • Use the Secretary of Education’s competitive priorities to drive equity and diversity.
  • Reaffirm and support the recommendations of the Equity and Excellence Commission.
  • Publish guidance on the civil rights obligations of charter schools.
  • Take aggressive enforcement actions in the following areas: (1) against zero-tolerance policies and excessive and discriminatory student discipline practices; (2) equitable distribution of resources, including teachers, and the requirement that poor and minority students not be taught at higher rates than other students by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers; (3) accountability of states and LEAs for improving achievement and graduation rates of subgroups, for effective school turnaround, and for individual student assistance and tutoring; and for school response to sexual assault, harassment and bullying; (4) protection of students seeking postsecondary or career education from predatory lending and deceptive marketing practices; and (5) protection of the rights of undocumented students (e.g., state denial of college admission to undocumented students).
  • Make the Department of Education’s work public and available on ed.gov, including: (1) all compliance, enforcement and resolution documents of all offices; (2) all state plans (and amendments thereto) under formula programs, including ESEA and IDEA (e.g., waiver documents, reports to the Department, peer review reports and names of reviewers, proposed amendments or modifications, and reports on site visits and other compliance monitoring); and (3) all applications for competitive grants, peer review reports, names of peer reviewers, scoring and ratings, and discretionary criteria applied (e.g., i-3, Race to the Top). Maintain and improve timely and accurate data collection and reporting and ensure all data can be cross-tabulated by all student subgroups (including gender and AAPI subgroups).

Employment

  • Issue an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people in employment.
  • Issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers for discussing pay.
  • The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) at the Department of Labor should update regulations on the affirmative action requirements for construction contractors.
  • The Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor should update the Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship Amendment of Regulations, ensuring that women and minorities have equal opportunities in apprenticeship program, which is essential to solving the problem of their underrepresentation in the skilled trades.
  • OFCCP should develop and implement a compensation data collection tool, which will provide insight into potential sex- and race-based compensation discrimination. In addition, the data collection tool could play a key role in OFCCP’s establishment-specific, contractor-wide, and industry-wide analyses.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission should issue guidance about the proper use and limits of using credit checks in hiring and promotion decisions.

Equal Opportunity: Continue to investigate the ongoing persistence of discrimination against minority and women entrepreneurs, explore innovative solutions to the problems of such discrimination and inequity, and defendagainst efforts to eliminate or curtail equal opportunity programs for women and minority businesses, including in appropriating and authorizing legislation.

Fair Housing

  • Promulgate final regulations describing requirements for all federal housing and community development programs and activities in order to affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Acknowledge publicly that the foreclosure crisis is not over and that communities of color were and continue to be most adversely impacted by the crisis.
  • Support legislation and/or regulatory reform requiring long-term affordable loan modifications of all residential mortgage loans when modification is in the best interests of the investor (NPV Positive).
  • Pursue criminal, in addition to civil, prosecutions of lenders and others responsible for originating, brokering, selling, and securitizing unaffordable mortgages.
  • Require that penalties and other mortgage settlement proceeds be directed to individual borrowers and the communities whose loans are the subject of the prosecutions.

Hate Crimes

  • The Department of Justice, including U.S. Attorneys, FBI officials, and Community Relations Service professionals, should promote comprehensive participation in the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) – with special attention devoted to underreporting large agencies that either do not participate in the HCSA program at all or erroneously report zero (0) hate crimes.
  • Convene a summit or briefing with civil rights and religious organizations, appropriate representatives of federal agencies, and law enforcement officials to discuss the nature and magnitude of the current hate crime problem in America, specific strategies to improve hate crime response and reporting, the status of hate crime training and enforcement initiatives, and strategies and best practices to prevent these crimes in the future.
  • The Department of Justice, including the FBI and the Community Relations Service, should expand inclusive education and outreach to state and local law enforcement officials on the components of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), using the Bureau’s updated and revised Hate Crime Data Training Manual. These trainings should include information about:

o Violence directed at individuals on the basis of their gender and gender identity;

o How serial domestic violence and the most violent incidents of rape and sexual assault could be criminal civil rights violations; and

o How to enhance accessibility so that people with disabilities – especially those with sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities – can more effectively navigate the criminal justice system in an effort to improve disability-based hate crime prevention, reporting, and response by police agencies

  • Plan events and programs to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the HCPA, October 28, 2014.

Human Rights

  • Work with Congress to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  • Elevate U.S. engagement in three key arenas: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
  • Catalyze interagency collaboration to implement U.S. human rights obligations and to report on implementation of Executive Orders on Gender-Based Violence and LGBT Equality.
  • Elevate U.S. engagement of the global fight against hate crime.

Immigration

  • Ensure prosecutorial discretion is factored into all immigration enforcement operations.
  • Ensure that the deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) policy is fully implemented and extended, and has consistent decisions, strong confidentiality protections, and other measures to encourage applicants to come forward.
  • Reform detention and border enforcement policies, to eliminate excessive and abusive practices.
  • Oppose the arbitrary detention bed mandate included in DHS appropriations language, and the informal annual 400,000 deportations quota.
  • Prevent employers from using the threat of immigration enforcement to deprive workers of their rights.

Nominations: Nominate a full slate of young, progressive, professionally, and demographically diverse nominees to fill all judicial vacancies, with a particular emphasis on nominating more public interest attorneys, legal aid attorneys, public defenders, and academics, and to make their confirmations a priority; press senators publicly and privately to support confirmations.

Media/Telecommunications

  • Expand existing support for low-income telephone service (“Lifeline”) into support for broadband. Expand broadband access as an area of emphasis throughout government. Move promptly to implement the President’s ConnectED initiative to give 99 percent of students access to broadband within five years. Leverage E-Rate to do so, but not at the expense of Lifeline.
  • Move swiftly to complete the Commission's Section 257 Critical Information Needs studies to assess whether the communications and media ecosystem can meet the needs of historically underserved communities. Complete this assessment in time to propose and adopt rules by 2015 that will expand the diversity of ownership in traditional and new media. Additionally, because the upcoming incentive auctions are consolidating spectrum out of the hands of underserved communities, adopt policies to augment diverse entrepreneurship in the mobile wireless industry.

Voting Rights

  • The Department of Justice should both vigorously defend the provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) under constitutional challenge, and aggressively enforce the VRA, including the general anti-discrimination provisions of Section 2 of the VRA, the minority language provisions in Sections 4 and 203 of the VRA, and the bail-in provisions of Section 3.
  • The Department of Justice should also vigorously enforce the voter registration provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
  • With guidance from Department of Justice and in coordination with the states, federal agencies that interact with the public should offer voter registration consistent with the NVRA’s mandate. Specifically, health insurance exchanges created pursuant to the Affordable Care Act should offer voter registration services consistent with Section 7 of the NVRA.

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