Trump’s First 100 Days Have Been a Disturbing Time for Civil and Human Rights
In the face of attacks, our community has continued to fight back.
Two days after the 2016 presidential election and a campaign season notable for its demonization of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, more than a dozen civil and human rights leaders came together to chart a path forward during the incoming Trump administration. They pledged to oppose attempts by the administration or Congress to turn back the clock on progress, to protect our nation’s most vulnerable, to guard against division and hate, and to continue to push for progressive policies that would improve the lives of American workers and their families.
In January, two days before Donald Trump took office, we reiterated our commitment. Our civil and human rights coalition of more than 200 national organizations released key priorities and our vision for the years ahead — a shared statement of principles on achieving equal justice and opportunity.
“Our strength lies in our history of welcoming peoples from around the world and of righting the wrongs of our past as we strive for an inclusive society in which we see our fates as linked together,” the coalition wrote. “But this vision is threatened by an emerging national agenda from the new administration and Congress, and a tone and tenor in our civic discourse, which tear at the very fabric of what has made America so strong for so long.”
“We are prepared to stand with and for all Americans in support of the rights guaranteed in our Constitution and laws, and to resist any attempt to discriminate against, oppress, or marginalize any members of our communities, including efforts to use religion to thwart laws that protect their rights, welfare, and well-being. We will stand against any efforts by the new administration and Congress to politicize civil and human rights, and intend to meet every challenge with the values and principles that animate our cause,” the statement said.
As Trump finishes his first 100 days in office, it’s now clear that our coalition’s concerns were warranted. Trump and his administration have taken an alarming number of actions to damage our nation’s progress — actions that, taken together, represent an undeniable contempt for the protection of civil and human rights.
Here are some of our concerns.
Donald Trump has hired people with ties to white nationalist organizations, and nominated a cabinet full of unqualified individuals to run the federal government. The Leadership Conference opposed the confirmation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. We had strong concerns about Ben Carson’s nomination to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), could not support Alex Acosta’s nomination to lead the Department of Labor (DOL), and — before he withdrew his name — strongly opposed Andrew Puzder’s DOL nomination.
Their actions are proving why. Sessions and DeVos in particular have taken a number of actions condemned by civil rights organizations. Their departments jointly rescinded Title IX guidance that clarified protections for the nation’s transgender students. At the close of Black History Month, DeVos mischaracterized the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and has appointed someone to lead her department’s Office for Civil Rights in an acting capacity who has a history of hostility to civil rights. Sessions has reversed the Obama administration’s private prison phase-out, reversed the Department of Justice’s position on Texas’ voter ID law, and has moved to abandon vital police accountability measures.
Trump also nominated, at the urging of far-right wing organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, despite Gorsuch’s record of being anti-worker, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ people, anti-environment, and anti-democracy, and who could undermine civil and human rights for a generation.
Early on, Trump issued an executive order banning travel to the United States by travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries. The executive order was blocked by federal courts on the grounds that it violated the Constitution’s prohibition against religious discrimination, and a revised version of the executive order also remains under injunction. The administration has also changed immigration enforcement guidance, creating the potential for a mass deportation machine while threatening to defund cities that refuse to allow their local law enforcement to carry out federal immigration responsibilities. The administration’s toxic message has been clear: Immigrants, Muslims, and refugees are not welcome here.
Trump has signed 13 resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act that have overturned Obama-era regulations, including the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order and an HHS final rule updating the regulations governing the Title X family planning program — a critical rule that clarified and reinforced the longstanding requirement that health care providers may not be excluded from the program for reasons unrelated to their qualifications to perform Title X-funded services. He also championed the American Health Care Act, which would have dismantled many of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and eliminated insurance for millions of Americans. The bill also would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
Trump proposed a dangerous budget that would take away money from vital public safety and social services programs and harm the working and middle class. He continues to assert that there was mass voting fraud in the 2016 election, despite lacking any evidence to support his claim. He’s failed to support full funding of the upcoming 2020 Census. And just this week, he signed a dangerous and wrongheaded executive order to abdicate federal responsibility in educational opportunity, and his administration announced a tax reform plan that’s simply a tax giveaway for the wealthy and big corporations. In sum, he has opposed the mission of The Leadership Conference — the protection and promotion of civil and human rights of all persons — at every turn.
In the face of these attacks, the progressive community hasn’t stopped fighting back. Puzder, for example, was forced to withdraw after intense pressure from advocates. Trump’s health care plan failed to garner enough Republican votes to move forward and haunted lawmakers at town halls across the country, where activists made clear their opposition. Multiple federal courts have served as an appropriate check on the administration, including on Trump’s Muslim ban. The list goes on, and there will be more moments in the future for us to fight — and win — together.
As the nation’s oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition, we believe that an attack on the civil and human rights of some is an attack on the civil and human rights of all. As long as individuals try to rollback our hard-fought achievements, we will resist — and will continue to call on political leaders and public officials to support policies that promote inclusion and respect for the basic rights of every person in America.