Farewell and Thank You Letter
Catherine E. Lhamon
January 21, 2021
I write to share news that I will no longer Chair or be a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights after January 20, 2021. I’m proud of the work that we have done, and I hope the work has been useful to you. Thank you for being a dedicated partner with me in our collective effort to make real the civil rights promises federal law has made for decades.
In the last four years that I chaired the Commission, we published 17 reports, issued dozens of policy statements, and heard expert testimony from federal, state, and local government officials, advocates, academics, and members of the public, reporting on federal civil rights enforcement across 13 federal agencies, education equity, voting rights, policing, collateral consequences of criminal justice involvement, broken promises to Native Americans, effective prevention and prosecution of hate crimes, school discipline, and many other topics. I had the privilege of attending briefings held by our State Advisory Committees on bail reform in Oregon, criminalization of people with mental illnesses in Maine, voting rights in Alabama, fair housing in Illinois, discrimination against Native Americans in South Dakota, school discipline in Maryland, and policing in Delaware.
I testified before Congress and spoke to community leaders and civil rights advocates across the country, sharing the Commission’s findings and recommendations. Amid devastating losses for civil rights in the last four years, I was heartened by a bipartisan Congress that consistently rejected the Trump Administration’s requests to decrease funding for civil rights enforcement across federal agencies. I look forward to the progress of the legislation heeding the Commission’s calls for change in the areas of voting rights, policing reform, imposition of fines and fees, federal funding for Native Americans, ending the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities, and others.
Our work did not stop with the COVID-19 pandemic that has so changed our lives in the last year, as we witnessed how this time has laid bare the civil rights gaps that we have reported for years. We moved swiftly to conduct our work virtually, holding remote briefings on racial disparities in maternal health and the impact of COVID-19 on Native American communities. Our State Advisory Committees did the same, holding virtual briefings examining the civil rights impacts of COVID-19 as well as other critical issues such as voting rights, bail reform, and subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. The Commission is pressing forward with other projects, including national projects on the civil rights implications of cash bail and oversight of FEMA’s response to disaster relief.
I hope you’ll continue to follow the important work of the Commission, which you can do on social media on Facebook and Twitter. All of our reports and materials are available on the Commission’s website.
When I am sworn in tomorrow as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, responsible for racial justice and equity, I will carry with me the investigations and work from the Commission these four years. I am grateful for what we produced in that time and for the opportunity to have worked together to shore up civil rights. Thank you.
Catherine E. Lhamon
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425