Just one week after becoming the first Cabinet member in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the country’s largest Latino civil rights organization that the struggle to overcome injustice is far from over.
Holder made a passing reference to the battle he endured last week when a mostly Republican majority voted to hold him in contempt for what they said was his failure to cooperate in an investigation they are conducting into a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms operation known as Fast and Furious.
Below are some excerpts from Holder’s remarks:
“In a very real sense, you are now on the front lines of this fight – the same fight that, more than four decades ago, inspired Herman Gallegos, Dr. Julian Samora, and Dr. Ernesto Galarza to create the Southwest Council of La Raza [predecessor to NCLR].”
”NCLR has established itself as an influential voice in protecting the civil rights of everyone in this nation; encouraging community engagement; inspiring future generations of leaders and activists; and ensuring equality in our law enforcement activities, immigration policies, housing and financial markets, school systems, workplaces, and voting booths.”
”But I also understand that – despite the truth and transformative power of the American Dream; and despite all the progress we’ve made over the last 236 years – our nation’s struggle to overcome injustice and eliminate disparities remains far from over.”
“I want to assure you that, in the fight to protect the civil rights of all – this organization will never have a more committed partner than the United States Department of Justice.”
“Over the past three years, our Civil Rights Division has filed more criminal civil rights cases than during any other period in its history – including record numbers of human trafficking, hate crimes, and police misconduct cases.”
”The Civil Rights Division had no choice but to file suit against Sheriff Arpaio, the Sheriff’s Office, and the County for discriminatory police and incarceration practices that violate the constitutional rights of Latinos in Maricopa County. These policies simply have no place in responsible and effective law enforcement. And they must not – and simply will not – be tolerated.”
“In another recent case that NCLR members – and millions of others across the country – have followed with great interest, the Justice Department also challenged the constitutionality of an Arizona law that would have effectively criminalized unlawful status. And, of course, last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down major provisions of this law – confirming the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate with regard to immigration issues.”
”We’ll work to ensure – as the Court affirmed – that such laws cannot be seen as a license to engage in racial profiling. And we’ll continue to enforce federal prohibitions against racial and ethnic discrimination, in order – as President Obama has promised – to “uphold our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
“Soon, certain young people – who may have been brought to this country illegally by their parents, but who pose no risk to national security or public safety – may receive temporary relief from removal and the chance to apply for work authorization.”
“…over the last 18 months – in response to a number of proposed changes that could make it more difficult for many eligible voters to cast their ballots – the Justice Department has initiated careful, thorough, and independent reviews of redistricting plans, photo identification requirements, and changes affecting third party registration organizations. In each of the jurisdictions where proposed changes can be shown to have no discriminatory purpose or effect, we’ll follow the law and approve the change. Where jurisdictions cannot meet this threshold, we will object – under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other laws – in order to guarantee that all eligible citizens have unrestricted access to the ballot box.”
“And although we can be proud of the great strides our nation has made in the decades since NCLR was founded – and since the day John F. Kennedy laid out his vision for an inclusive, “spacious society” – the harsh reality is that much remains to be done, and the road ahead remains far from certain.”