Civil Rights/Civil Liberties

Civil rights and civil liberties are the building blocks of the rule of law in our country. We must strive to simultaneously uphold the U.S. Constitution, protect our civil liberties, and fulfill our solemn obligation to protect the American people. I am dedicated to ensuring protections against any form of discrimination, including race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, gender, gender identity, veterans status, or sexual orientation.  President Trump’s statements after the white supremacist rally were despicable, and this Administration’s continues to fan the flames of hate speech and hate crimes by demonizing minorities and immigrants.

One of my highest priorities is reviving consideration of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to finally guarantee full and equal protections to women under the Constitution. Since Illinois ratified the amendment in May of 2018, only one more state must do so to reach the 38 state threshold. It is critical that we remove the ratification deadline now and clear the way for the states to make this long overdue recognition. I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to do so.

We must also work to fix our broken criminal justice system. I was proud to cosponsor the First Step Act criminal justice reform measure enacted in December of 2018 which made key sentencing and prison reform improvements. Much more needs to be done on this front to ensure that all Americans are treated equitably.

The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks at the hands police has shined a light on the continuing systemic racial injustice in law enforcement. We must work to hold police accountable for misconduct and rebuild trust within the communities they serve.

For years, I’ve led the Senate in promoting legislation to end discriminatory profiling by law enforcement and enforce changes in police accountability, data collecting, and training. Two major pieces I have spearheaded over the years are included in the recent Justice in Policing Act reform package in the Senate: The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (S. 2355) and the Law Enforcement Trust and Accountability Act (S. 3063). The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act is designed to enforce the constitutional right to equal protection under the law by eliminating racial and religious-based discriminatory profiling at all levels of law enforcement by changing the policies and procedures underlying this practice. Rather than unfairly targeting individuals due to their characteristics and turning communities away from the police, police would be provided with additional resources to develop new and more effective policing practices. Guided by the findings and recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act would take a comprehensive approach to steer police departments toward a guardian and community-oriented model of policing, while at the same time expanding oversight and accountability over police misconduct. Too many people have needlessly lost their lives in encounters with law enforcement.  What these tragic deaths have made all too clear is that our communities across the country desperately need reform in our police and criminal justice systems.  We can, and indeed, we must do a better job in protecting and celebrating human and civil rights and the lives of marginalized men, women, and children across this country. 

In Baltimore and nationwide, we must redouble our efforts to continue the dialogue and the hard work needed to rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they are sworn to protect and serve. We need to establish a guardian model, not a warrior model, for our law enforcement officers who are putting their lives on the line every day.  In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, we must all work together to implement needed reforms in the Baltimore Police Department, including through the full implementation of the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. In the summer of 2019, after strong support from the Maryland Congressional delegation, the Baltimore Police Department joined the National Public Safety Partnership Program, which is a federal-state partnership designed to help drive down violent crime.

No one – not even the President of the United States – is above the law. President Trump must be held fully accountable in terms of complying with the anti-corruption Emoluments clauses of the Constitution, so that Americans can be sure that the President is putting the country’s own best interests ahead of his personal, family, or business enrichment. I will continue to insist that our federal judges and law enforcement officers in Maryland and throughout the nation meet the highest standards of judicial integrity and respect for the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. In particular, federal judges must uphold their oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”