Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General for the CIvil Rights Division Thomas Perez addressed the National Council of La Raza, a progressive latino activist organization, on Saturday and his speech was so remarkably political in tone, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, called it “inappropriate.”
“The activism….in other words, encouraging a group to push the limit to somehow saying that there’s injustice there is inappropriate,” said Mr. Issa. “He shouldn’t be lobbying that there’s injustice. He should be looking for it and be an honest arbitrator when [he] finds it,” the California Republican told me on Monday.
Mr. Perez is a former board president of a La Raza affiliate in Maryland and told the La Raza audience he was proud of their work in the various communities. However, he added: “It’s undeniable that what else we see out there in America is an absolute headwind of intolerance and it’s a headwind of intolerance that has been manifested in many different ways shapes and forms.”
“That’s what concerns me about his speech—If that’s what he’s looking for is to be a fair arbitrator of what’s wrong. The Bush administration was very strong in the same area that they picked up civil rights cases where they saw things wrong and they should,” Congressman Issa explained.
Below are a number of video clips from Asst. AG Perez’s speech to La Raza on Saturday with transcribed excerpts: (emphasis is mine)
“[And we must ensure] that we have vigorous enforcement of the Constitution and vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and that is why I was so appreciative of the president’s leadership and understanding that we needed to have that resource infusion in order to carry out our program of restoration and transformation. That’s what its about. But we can’t prosecute our way out of these challenges.”
“Prosecutions alone will not be enough. Although I will note, that we will use every…we will continue to use every tool in our law enforcement arsenal to root out hate crimes to ensure opportunity in all of the areas that I have discussed, but that’s why your role is so important, because we need a comprehensive program of effective prosecution and enforcement but we also need programs of prevention—programs of education. We need as Ted Kennedy taught me, to build coalitions.”
“You are all change agents…serial activists and I am confident that we will move America forward and we will create an America of opportunity—an opportunity for everyone—opportunities that will abound and that is why I leave you with that sense of optimism. I hope you will continue to give us your information—your guidance and your assistance and I want to thank you for hosting me. But most importantly, I want to thank you for what you do in every community across this country and will continue to be a great country.”
“You know that we will continue to vigorously enforce every law. We will do so fairly and independently. And I am so proud to work with this president, because, you know what? We couldn’t do it without him. We got the largest increase in our division’s history a couple of years ago to do this work. “
“We inherited a challenging civil rights division. We inherited a division in which people weren’t allowed to bring certain fair lending cases, because there was a fear that it would somehow undermine the business climate for lending. Why categorically reject that false dichotomy or that false choice between common sense consumer protection and preserving a sound business climate for lending.”
“I categorically reject all of these false choices. And we must ensure that we have vigorous enforcement of the Constitution and vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and that is why I was so appreciative of the president’s leadership and understanding that we needed to have that resource infusion in order to carry out our program of restoration and transformation. That’s what its about. But we can’t prosecute our way out of these challenges.”