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DOJ eyes undoing some protections for minorities: reports

DOJ eyes undoing some protections for minorities: reports
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is aiming to roll back some protections for minorities under the Civil Rights Act, potentially impacting women, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community, according to a draft proposal obtained by multiple new outlets. 

The potential changes, reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post, would affect how the Justice Department enforces Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars recipients of federal funding, such as housing programs and employers, from discriminating based on race, color or national origin. 

Under the proposal submitted to the White House for approval, the agency would no longer enforce the law in cases in which a policy or practice had a “disparate impact” on minority or other groups.

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The disparate impact rule has been cited by civil rights groups as one of the most important protections of the law, as it includes practices or policies that may initially appear neutral but end up disproportionately impacting certain minority groups. 

According to the Post, the Trump administration has considered adopting the proposed changes for two years, and is submitting it with just two weeks to go until the inauguration of President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE

The Times reported that the draft proposal argues that the current enforcement of civil rights protections addressed “a vastly broader scope of conduct” than the statute itself allows. 

The document also reportedly states that the changes would “provide much needed clarity to the courts and federal funding recipients and beneficiaries,” noting that the Justice Department currently distributes about $6 billion a year in grants or awards. 

However, the agency notes in the proposal that it remains unclear how much of the awards or grants would be impacted by the proposed enforcement change, according to the Post. 

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The Times reported that the department submitted the change to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Dec. 21, making it one of former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBiden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report Putting antifa and Black Lives Matter on notice MORE’s final actions before leaving the role. 

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

Becky Monroe, director of the Fighting Hate and Bias program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called the DOJ’s proposed change “a big deal” for minorities. 

“The idea they would use this process at the eleventh hour to undermine civil rights protections is deeply alarming though not surprising,” Monroe, who also worked at the Justice Department under the Obama administration, added. 

The proposed change would add on other Trump administration efforts to roll back certain regulations and protections for minority groups. 

In 2018, the Education and Justice departments announced that they had revoked seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which they argued, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

In late September, Trump signed an executive order banning federal agencies, contractors and grant recipients from conducting diversity training that he deemed “anti-American,” including trainings on race and gender discrimination. 

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, along with a pair of other national civil rights organizations, sued Trump as a result of the order, arguing that it violates freedom of speech while inhibiting progress in the fight against systemic racism and gender discrimination in the workplace.