The Senate has just passed a bill that establishes an unsolved crimes section of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. Three of the four presidential candidates, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama have signed onto the bill, with Dodd as primary sponsor and Biden and Obama as co-sponsors.

Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act – Establishes an Unsolved Crimes Section in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and an Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Investigative Office in the Civil Rights Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Makes the Chief of the Section (Chief) and the Chief Investigator of the Office responsible for investigating violations of criminal civil rights statutes in which the alleged violation occurred before January 1, 1970 and resulted in death.

While I understand that no Democrat could have possibly voted against this act, my question is given the Bush Justice Department’s deliberate efforts to exclude black lawyers from its Civil Rights Division, its lack of interest in pursuing cases of minority vote suppression by the GOP, and its new focus on protecting the rights of religious groups to proselytize American schoolchildren, who actually believes that there will be any effort made to solve murders that are decades old when violations of people’s civil rights are tolerated every day?

In recent years, the Bush administration has recast the federal government’s role in civil rights by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race.


The changes are evident in a variety of actions:

¶Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money.

¶Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ.

I want to know what members of Congress are going to do to provide oversight and make sure that a Justice Department that has thus far been completely hostile to defending the rights of minorities actually does what the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act mandates.

The Act is a wonderful resume padder for Democratic Presidential candidates, but I question its sincerity. These murders have gone without justice for a generation. Why does Congress care now?

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