Short Profile of Dubya’s Record on Civil Rights

8 09 2007

Cross posted at Reclaim Civil Rights.

Current Position: President of the United States

Voting Rights. During his Presidency, the Justice Department has made investigating charges of so-called voter fraud a high nationwide priority for the Justice Department and U.S. attorneys. But the initiative focused more on enforcement of voter ID laws, and chasing phantom charges of “voter fraud” than it did on achieving greater access to the polls for all Americans. In its five year existence, the initiative has not found widespread instances of voter fraud. In fact, only “120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.” The majority of those targeted by the initiative have been minorities or the poor.

The initiative also placed needless pressure on, and eventually led to the firing of, several of the U.S. Attorneys in 2006 that did not energetically prosecute or investigate baseless voter fraud cases.

Hurricane Katrina. Before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, President Bush flatly stated “We are fully prepared.” Despite the bold pronouncement, Bush ignored the threat the category four hurricane posed to New Orleans and had no emergency plans in place to protect Katrina victims. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, thousands of small businesses were completely destroyed, and countless families who lost their homes were driven deeper into poverty.

On September 15, 2005, in New Orleans, Louisiana, George W. Bush declared “And the federal government will undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans, and other Gulf Coast cities, so they can rebuild in a sensible, well-planned way. Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. Our goal is to get the work done quickly.”

Two years later, houses are being demolished without notice to tenants or owners, only 45 percent of the schools in New Orleans, and less than 40 percent of childcare centers have reopened. And according to Salon.com, “the city’s Housing Authority has slated thousands of units of public housing for demolition, the majority of which were not damaged by the storm.

Housing Crisis. Subprime loans, which are often used in predatory lending schemes, have constituted 20 percent of the mortgage market since 2005. But President Bush has largely ignored enforcement of fair housing laws and allowed the crisis in the subprime market to fester. This crisis has disproportionately affected the poor, and people of color.

Racial Profiling. In the wake of September 11th, President Bush endorsed Ashcroft’s policy of racial and religious profiling, including secret arrests of Muslims, Arab, and South Asian men, which frequently led to rushed deportation proceedings.

It also resulted in the secret arrests and indefinite detention of more than 1,200 non-citizens, mainly from the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa. In secret hearings, a high percentage of the detainees were charged with violating immigration law simply as a pretext for investigating them for potential links to terrorist organizations. A report found that out of the thousands arrested only a handful of the so-called “special interest” detainees were actually charged with a terrorism-related crime.

Real ID Act. After hastily pushing it through Congress without much debate, President Bush signed the Real ID Act in 2005 which mandates onerous new requirements for state-issued ID cards such as drivers’ licenses. Under this law, states will be required to establish a person’s citizenship status before issuing them a state ID. This requirement will make it much harder for many Americans to obtain driver’s licenses and other forms of state ID, since many Americans do not have either a copy of their birth certificate or a U.S. passport. State officials have claimed that compliance with the law will cost $11 billion, cause a spike in registration fees, and result in stressful delays for 245 million Americans, if the May 2008 compliance deadline is honored.

Right Wing Judiciary. In addition to appointing officials at the Justice Department devoted to undermining the civil rights of ordinary Americans, President Bush has also appointed several conservative activist judges to the federal judiciary, who are seeking to narrow the scope of federal anti-discrimination law. On the Supreme Court alone, President Bush’s appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito together have weakened anti-pay discrimination law and undermined school integration efforts.

Where he is now: President Bush’s approval ratings remain in the low 30’s.

Key Quote:

“A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it”
Associated Press July 27, 2001

 

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4 12 2007
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