House Democrats reintroduce bill addressing diversity at State Department

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas)

House Democrats are pushing forward on legislation aimed at codifying efforts to improve diversity and inclusion at the State Department.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reintroduced on Wednesday his bill called the Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act.

Castro first introduced the legislation in December, during the previous Congress.

Among the provisions, the bill makes permanent the office of chief diversity and inclusion officer at the State Department, a post created by the Biden administration in April and currently headed by Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley.

The bill also lays out responsibilities for the office, including advocating for diversity within State and addressing issues with retention, promotion and equity for minorities.

“For years, the State Department has failed to look like the face of our country and the lack of diversity in the diplomatic corps is appalling,” Castro said in a statement.

“Our country’s diversity and heritage as a nation of immigrants is one of our greatest strengths, providing a competitive advantage over adversaries. The Diversity and Inclusion at the Department of State Act will increase accountability for retaining and promoting a diverse diplomatic workforce that both better reflects our values and also advances our interests around the world.”

The bill has more than two dozen Democratic co-sponsors and has the backing of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional group for the foreign service; foreign policy and national security organizations like the Truman National Security Project; and political and policy advocacy groups like Foreign Policy for America.

The bill also has the endorsement of Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security and Inclusive America, initiatives aimed at fostering foreign and national security professionals among communities of color.

“We need to ensure a more inclusive State Department – from interns and foreign service officers to Ambassadors and senior leadership – in order to ensure our foreign policy is successfully executed. By leaving segments of our people out of policymaking rooms, we leave out great policies,” Mark Hanis, co-founder of Inclusive America, said in a statement.

The State Department has long come under criticism for failing to address inequities for minority communities. Asian American lawmakers, as well as other minority groups, have called out the department’s policy of “assignment restrictions” as discriminatory based on race. 

Calls for efforts by the State Department to modernize and improve diversity reached a fever pitch during the former Trump administration, as long-standing inequities for minorities across all sectors of society rose to the front of the national conversation that was largely sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

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