The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the White House to allow it to change how a critical federal law is enforced, effectively undoing civil rights protections for vulnerable groups, according to a Tuesday (January 5) report by The New York Times.
The DOJ submitted the request to change enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to the White House Office of Management and Budget on December 21, 2020. If approved, protections against intentional discrimination would remain but not where a “disparate impact” was experienced by protected minority groups, the report said.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The draft of the DOJ’s request, obtained by the Times, says their current enforcement of the statute includes a “vastly broader scope of conduct” then what is actually written in the law.
If the request is approved, it would mark the first significant change to how the Justice Department defines discrimination in Title VI since 1973.
The DOJ’s attempt received swift critique from advocates who vowed to challenge the request. Lauren Sampson, an attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights told the Times, “The regulation and explanation are exceedingly sparse, and it shows the dangers of rule-making without following the legally required process, including opportunities for public comment.”
Senior counsel for the National Women’s Law Center Shiwali Patel shared the same sentiments in a tweet sent after news of the announcement was made. “It’s unconscionable that the DOJ is trying to sneak in changes at the eleventh hour to weaken civil rights protections against racial discrimination,” Patel’s post said.
The new attorney general in Joe Biden’s administration, however, could delay the implementation of the change, if it’s approved.
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