On February 8, a diverse group of prominent civil rights leaders met with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to discuss civil rights issues of concern to all Americans.
Among the topics discussed at today's meeting were the reauthorization and restoration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, federal civil rights enforcement (including the protection of voting rights for displaced citizens of Louisiana), immigration policy, and the wiretapping and surveillance of American citizens.
"We urged the Attorney General to actively support the reauthorization and strengthening of the Voting Rights Act," said Theodore M. Shaw, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. "We also shared our deep concerns about the Justice Department's lack of civil rights enforcement in recent years and the electronic surveillance of American citizens, a practice that has a history of being used to harass and undercut the civil rights community,"
"This meeting offered an excellent opportunity to thank the Attorney General for reviewing the functioning of the immigration courts and to call upon the Justice Department to address the erosion of due process rights accorded to immigrants and the alarming increase in immigrant scapegoating," said Karen Narasaki, President of the Asian American Justice Center.
"We carried the message that all of these issues are of paramount importance to Americans and that the civil rights community is united in its commitment to ensure that we are working together with the administration to address them," said Ann Marie Tallman, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The group encouraged the Attorney General to meet with civil rights leaders on a regular basis in the future.
"Obtaining input from the civil rights community should be a standard practice, not an occasional occurrence," said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. "Enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws is part of the Attorney General's constitutional responsibility and cannot be done in a vacuum. We hope today's meeting is the beginning of an on-going and productive dialogue between the Attorney General and the civil rights community."
Attending the meeting were:
Wade Henderson, Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
Karen Narasaki, President, Asian American Justice Center
Theodore M. Shaw, Director-Counsel and President, NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund, Inc.
Hilary O. Shelton, representing NAACP President Bruce Gordon, who participated by phone
Ann Marie Tallman, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
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