Justice Dept. Seeks to Pare Back Civil Rights Protections for Minorities

The Trump administration has long sought to eliminate protections for groups at risk of suffering such impacts, arguing that the Civil Rights Act as passed by Congress only safeguards against intentional acts of discrimination.

The administration had embraced the legal objections of conservative allies, including the widely influential Heritage Foundation, and had put the regulation on a list of anti-discrimination laws championed by the Obama administration whose regulations it planned to revise had President Trump won a second term.

“Federal agencies are honeycombed with policies that adopt the disparate-impact approach, and the Trump administration needs to root them out,” Roger Clegg, the former president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank, wrote in The National Review in 2018.

The Trump administration has already signaled its objection to the concept and taken steps to undermine it.

In 2017, the administration closed a complaint from civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, alleging that the cancellation of a large transportation project in Maryland called the Red Line by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, violated the Civil Rights Act because it disproportionately hurt the city’s Black residents. The Transportation Department shelved the complaint, which was opened on the last day of the Obama administration, without a finding or an explanation.

The most forceful denouncement of the regulation came in 2018, when the Trump administration essentially blamed an Obama-era guidance document that addressed the disproportionate discipline rates among children of color in the United States for the mass shooting carried out by a troubled white student in Parkland, Fla.

Trump administration officials sought extensively to link the document to the disparate impact doctrine. In the days before the Education and Justice Departments rescinded the document in December 2018, a federal school safety commission headed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a report recommending the guidance be withdrawn because it “relies on a disparate impact legal theory, but that theory lacks foundation in applicable law.” It called the document’s reading of the law “dubious, at best.”

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