The Erosion of Rights: Declining Civil Rights Enforcement Under the Bush Administration

Publication Date: June 2008

Publisher: Center for American Progress

Author(s): William L. Taylor; William L. Taylor; Crystal Rosario; Joseph D. Rich

Research Area: Human rights

Type: Report


The erosion of civil rights across our nation over the past six years is the result of willful neglect and calculated design. The Bush administration continues to use the courts and the judicial appointment process to narrow civil rights protections and repeal remedies for legal redress while allowing the traditional tools of the executive branch for civil rights enforcement to wither and die. The resulting inequality of opportunity, deteriorating civil liberties, and rising religious and racial discrimination are sad commen­taries on the priorities of the current administration.

This new report by the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights and the Center For American Progress catalogues why this is happening and how Congress can take action to remedy the situation. The 10 essays in this report encapsulate the administration’s failure to enforce civil rights, protect civil liberties and confront long-standing and emerging threats to our nation’s shining virtue: equality of opportunity. The authors of the report, many of them veterans of civil rights enforcement and advocacy, detail the methods employed by the administration to carry out these serious civil rights policy reversals and offer concrete solutions to slow the deterioration of our nation’s civil rights and restore our promise as the land of equal opportunity.

The first section of the report, written by five former se­nior officials in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, reveals exactly how civil rights enforcement by the executive branch has fallen in to a dangerous state of disrepair—on the eve of the division’s historic 50-year anniversary. Joseph Rich, 38-year veteran of the division until his retirement in 2005, exposes the attacks upon the professionalism of the division by political appoin­tees amid pointed lack of oversight by Congress into these transgressions.