U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and a group of Senators in sending a letter to the Trump Administration, urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make combating hate crimes a major focus at the Department of Justice and request full funding for the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service and Civil Rights Division.
“We write to urge you to make combatting hate crimes a major focus at the Department of Justice and prioritize funding for the protection of civil rights as you evaluate budget priorities. As you have no doubt seen, there has been an alarming increase in bias-motivated violence in our country. Many members of racial, ethnic and religious minority communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, live in very real fear for their safety. They are scared, and it is incumbent upon you as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer to demonstrate to them and all Americans that discrimination and violence against any individual because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love will not be tolerated in our country,” the Senators wrote.
The letter was also signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“We urge you to include full funding for the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service and Civil Rights Division, both as you work with Congress to address funding for the Department of Justice for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, and as you develop your Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. The Community Relations Service oversees a force of professional mediators and trainers charged with bringing together communities in conflict to help them enhance their ability through local, independent mechanisms to prevent and resolve existing and future concerns. The Civil Rights Division leads the Department’s efforts to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, and enforce federal civil rights and hate crimes laws. Together, these components of the Department play a critical role in addressing discrimination and bias-motivated crime in our country,” the Senators wrote. “We also believe it is imperative that you reaffirm the Department’s commitment to work with state and local officials in prosecuting hate crimes, in working with state and local jurisdictions to improve their assessment and reporting of such crimes, and to prosecute such crimes at the federal level when appropriate.”
A copy of the letter is available here.