Justice News

Opening Statement of Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division Before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Washington, DC
United States
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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Chairman Serrano, Ranking Member Aderholt, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.  It is an honor to serve as the Assistant Attorney General and as the voice of the women and men of the Civil Rights Division.  Thank you for making the time for this important hearing. 

As you know, the Civil Rights Division works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all, including some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  We enforce several civil and criminal statutes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, among others. 

The Division currently has approximately 567 full-time employees, including 369 attorneys.  The Division’s fiscal year 2019 allocation from the General Legal Activities account is $148.2 million.

The Civil Rights Division remains focused on a variety of priorities. Those include:

  • Prosecuting hate crimes;
  • Prosecuting human traffickers and destroying transnational organized trafficking networks;
  • Prosecuting those who violate federal race discrimination laws;
  • Combatting unlawful hiring practices against U.S. workers;
  • Enforcing federal laws that protect servicemembers, veterans, and their families;
  • Protecting voting rights;
  • Safeguarding religious freedom;
  • Ensuring that individuals have access to treatment for opioid addiction; and
  • Combatting sexual harassment and abuse.

The Attorney General has made hate crimes prosecutions a priority, and the Department launched a Hate Crimes Enforcement and Prevention Initiative.  The Civil Rights Division leads that Initiative and coordinates the Department’s efforts to eradicate hate crime.   Since January 2017, the Department has convicted more than 40 defendants for hate crimes violations.

The Division also plays a lead role in the Department’s efforts to enforce laws against human trafficking, including both sex trafficking and forced labor.  From 2013 to 2017, the Division, in partnership with U.S. Attorney is Offices, brought 427 human trafficking cases, which is an 82 percent increase from the prior four-year period. 

The Division has launched several other initiatives. 

The Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative seeks to identify employers who abuse temporary visa programs and combats employment discrimination against U.S. workers. 

The Division’s ADA Voting Initiative seeks to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process.  The Division entered into its most recent settlement agreement under this Initiative just two weeks ago. 

The Division also has zealously protected the right to vote under other federal statutes, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the Help America Vote Act. 

Since January 2017, the United States has participated in 6 cases brought under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The federal appellate courts resolved three of those cases, and in each, the courts adopted the position advocated by the United States.  The other three cases remain pending. 

And since January 2017, the Division has entered into settlement agreements with Arizona and Wisconsin to protect the voting rights of military and other overseas voters, and with Kentucky and Connecticut to ensure compliance with federal-law requirements regarding the maintenance of complete and accurate voter registration rolls.

In April of 2018, and timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, the Division launched the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative.  The Division has opened a record number of investigations and filed a record number of sexual harassment pattern or practice lawsuits in federal court. 

The Division’s Religious Discrimination Initiative works with U.S. Attorney Offices to combat religious discrimination in schools, including harassment against minority faith groups. 

Likewise, the Place to Worship Initiative seeks to increase enforcement and public awareness of the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  

Finally, last year, the Division and the Department commemorated the 50th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Every section of the Civil Rights Division plays a role in seeking to make Dr. King’s vision of a nation free from racial prejudice a reality.  The Division is committed to continue its efforts to eliminate race discrimination in this County.   

Chairman Serrano, Ranking Member Aderholt, and Members of the Committee, your support allows the Civil Rights Division to protect the civil rights of all Americans.  Thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions. 

 

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Updated March 15, 2019