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Perez Sworn In As Head of Civil Rights Division
Posted By Ryan J. Reilly On November 13, 2009 @ 11:43 pm In News | Comments Disabled
Tom Perez was formally installed as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building this afternoon.
Appearing at the ceremony were Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, White House domestic policy council director Melody Barnes, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Attorney General Eric Holder. Perez was sworn in by Hon. Linda Davis, an associate judge for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
The Civil Rights Division was in turmoil during the Bush administration. Many veteran career lawyers pushed out to make way for conservative-leaning attorneys, who emphasized religious bias, human trafficking, and other cases that weren’t explicitly racial in nature.
Holder has pledged to refocus the Civil Rights Division on its historic mission of enforcing anti-discrimination laws to protect minorities.
In remarks, Perez said civil rights leaders told him that members of the editorial board of a national newspaper recently asked them why the Civil Rights Division is still needed, given progress in race relations.
“In 2009, nearly 50 years removed from the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964; nearly a century and a half removed from the Emancipation Proclamation; and a year after the American people unwaveringly sent an African American family to the White House – why do we need a Civil Rights Division? It’s an interesting and provocative question.
We have undeniably come a long way. An entire generation has passed since our nation’s leaders recognized the injustice of legal segregation. Women outnumber men in the workplace. We have an African American president, a Latina Supreme Court Justice and a female Speaker of the House. My parents probably couldn’t have imagined any of it, but my children are growing up to know nothing else.
There are some out there who think the task is complete, who would like to close the book and say we’ve fulfilled the promise of equal opportunity and justice for all. And my job security aside, I wish they were right. I wish that last year’s historic election were the culmination rather than a checkpoint along the way.
But, as the late Senator Ted Kennedy often reminded us, civil rights are truly the unfinished business of America. Perhaps as much as any time in the last half century, we still need a Civil Rights Division.”
Read Perez’s full remarks here .
Thomas Saenz, a former Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund lawyer and Yale law grad, was originally slated to head the division. But the White House reportedly found his work on behalf of immigrant rights a hard sell with conservative lawmakers in Congress, and picked Perez instead.
Said Holder on Friday:
“The Civil Rights Division that Tom leads today is stronger than it was nine months ago, but there is much more work to be done. The Civil Rights Division may be ‘back open for business,’ as I often say, but that cannot be enough. We must commit ourselves not just to restoring the Civil Rights Division.”
Read Holder’s full remarks here .
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