New Report Says Bush Administration Lax on Civil Rights Enforcement

November 22, 2004 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed a new study of civil rights enforcement by the Justice Department, which found that government enforcement has sharply declined during the Bush administration. The findings, released today, contradict public statements made by administration officials that the nation’s civil rights laws are being strictly enforced.

“”The actions of administration officials speak louder then their words,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “”President Bush told the American people that the administration ‘has vigorously enforced civil rights laws,’ but we see today that this simply is not the case. As the Department of Justice moves forward, it has an obligation to uphold and enforce laws designed to protect our civil rights.””

The ACLU comments come in response to the release today of a new report by the non-partisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, a Syracuse University-based organization that analyzes information on government staffing, spending and law enforcement.

The report focuses on key data from the Justice Department and the federal courts from the last five years. Specifically, the TRAC report shows that while the reported number of civil rights complaints has remained steady over that period, the government’s enforcement of civil rights cases has sharply declined, from 159 defendants in 1999 to 84 in 2003.

During the same time period, the total number of federal prosecutions increased by about 10 percent, with sharp jumps in immigration and terrorism cases. The report states that these distinctly different trends suggest an unannounced policy shift by the government in choosing which cases to prosecute.

There has also been a steady decline in the number of civil sanctions imposed on violators. The government filed 740 civil actions in 2001, 644 in 2002, and 576 in 2003. Civil suits can involve voting rights violations, employment and housing discrimination and other matters.

According to the report, one factor driving these trends is U.S. Attorneys. In 2003, federal prosecutors filed charges in almost 90 percent of immigration cases presented to them, but they filed charges in only 5 percent of civil rights cases.

“”The report today confirms what practically everyone in the civil rights community already knows: the Justice Department is not doing its job of enforcing civil rights laws,”” added Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “”The Senate should ask the nominee for the Attorney General position, Alberto Gonzales, to commit to restoring the Justice Department as the nation’s top civil rights law enforcer.””

The TRAC report is available at:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.