Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice speaks with Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. Photo courtesy of Sgt. Scott Davis, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs Office, Fort Campbell, Ky.
The following post appears courtesy of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez for the Civil Rights Division. Last month I had the opportunity to meet with approximately 200 members of the 101st Airborne Division at Ft. Campbell to discuss the many way the Department of Justice protects the civil rights of service members. It was particularly appropriate that our visit to Fort Campbell coincided with the 58th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Brown v. Board unanimously outlawed “separate but equal” schools and called for the desegregation of schools throughout the nation. The 101st Airborne Division’s extraordinary accomplishments around the world on behalf of democracy and freedom are well known, but few know they also include a critical role during the Civil Rights Movement, when its soldiers escorted and protected the “Little Rock Nine” as they attended classes at the all-white Little Rock Central High School. Members of the 101st Airborne Division also deployed to Oxford, Mississippi, when James Meredith became the University of Mississippi’s first African-American student. These important missions were highlighted during our tour of the Don F. Pratt Museum. During my visit, I discussed with Ft. Campbell’s soldiers and their families how the Civil Rights Division enforces laws designed to protect the rights of service members and their families. These laws ensure their brave and selfless service never puts them at risk of losing their jobs at home. They make sure members of the military and their families never have to forfeit their right to vote because they may be stationed far from home. They also protect military families when they act as consumers and make sure they are not penalized for their courageous decision to serve. In addition, I shared the ways the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of individuals with disabilities, and can help those who return from combat with new disabilities. I heard directly from the men and women serving our nation about the challenges they confront and I reminded Ft. Campbell’s soldiers they may seek advice from their Staff Judge Advocate office about their rights under these laws. They can also report violations of their rights to their Staff Judge Advocate. The Civil Rights Division’s recent enforcement actions, including a settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage loan servicers also impact military families. Under this settlement, five major mortgage loan servicers will conduct reviews to ensure that service members were not treated unfairly or in violation of the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This process was part of the historic “robo-signing” mortgage servicer settlement, which provides for $25 billion in relief to homeowners. As a result of these settlements, the vast majority of all foreclosures against service members are now subject to court-ordered review. In addition all five servicers agreed to numerous other measures to ensure compliance with the SCRA in the future. One of the Civil Rights Division’s greatest honors, and a priority for the President and the Attorney General, is the enforcement of federal laws that protect the rights of members of the armed forces and their families. We will continue to aggressively enforce the laws aimed at protecting the civil rights of our service members and their families. Learn more about civil rights protections for service members by visiting: www.servicemembers.gov. or downloading the "Protecting the Rights of Servicemembers" booklet (PDF). Follow the Civil Rights Division on Twitter for regular updates.