Human rights

Attorney General Sessions withdrew an earlier Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the department’s use of private prisons.

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In its first year, the Trump administration has launched an across-the-board assault on our nation's civil and human rights. Today, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights issued a timeline of the Trump administration’s rollbacks on civil and human rights.  That list is below and is available at 

On January 27, Trump signed an executive order – the first version of his Muslim travel ban — that discriminated against Muslims and banned refugees.

On January 31, under new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, refused to defend critical components of its prison phone rate rules in federal court – rules that were ultimately struck down in June.

On February 3, Trump signed an executive order outlining principles for regulating the U.S. financial system and calling for a 120-day review of existing laws, like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The order was viewed as Trump’s opening attack on consumer protection laws.

On February 3, the FCC rescinded its 2014 Joint Sales Agreement (JSA) guidance, which had led to the only increase in television diversity in recent years.

On February 3, FCC Chairman Pai revoked the Lifeline Broadband Provider designations for nine broadband service providers, reducing the number of providers offering broadband and thus decreasing the competitive forces available to drive down prices.

On February 9, Trump signed three executive orders “to fight crime, gangs, and drugs; restore law and order; and support the dedicated men and women of law enforcement.” The orders, though vague, were viewed suspiciously by civil rights organizations.

On February 21, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo updating immigration enforcement guidance, massively expanding the number of people subject to detention and deportation. The guidance drastically increased the use of expedited removal and essentially eliminated the priorities for deportation.

On February 22, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights jointly rescinded Title IX guidance clarifying protections under the law for transgender students.

On February 23, Attorney General Sessions withdrew an earlier Justice Department memo that set a goal of reducing and ultimately ending the department’s use of private prisons.

On February 27, the Department of Justice dropped the federal government’s longstanding position that a Texas voter ID law under legal challenge was intentionally racially discriminatory, despite having successfully advanced that argument in multiple federal courts. The district court subsequently rejected the position of the Sessions Justice Department and concluded the law was passed with discriminatory intent.

On March 6, Trump signed a revised executive order restricting travel to the United States by citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen and drastically cutting back refugee admissions.

On March 6, a week after Trump called on lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act during his address to Congress, House Republicans released a proposal to replace the ACA with a law that would restructure Medicaid and defund Planned Parenthood.

On March 16, the Trump administration released a budget blueprint that proposed a $54 billion increase in military spending that would come from $54 billion in direct cuts to non-defense programs. The blueprint also proposed spending $4.1 billion through 2018 on the beginnings of construction of a wall through communities on the U.S.-Mexico border.

On March 27, Trump signed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which repealed a U.S. Department of Education accountability rule finalized last year that would clarify states’ obligations under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

On March 27, Trump signed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which repealed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. The order, signed by President Obama, represented a much-needed step forward in ensuring that the federal contractor community is providing safe and fair workplaces for employees by encouraging compliance with federal labor and civil rights laws, and prohibiting the use of mandatory arbitration of certain disputes.

In a March 31, memo, Sessions ordered a sweeping review of consent decrees with law enforcement agencies relating to police conduct – a crucial tool in the Justice Department’s efforts to ensure constitutional and accountable policing. The department also tried, unsuccessfully, to block a federal court in Baltimore from approving a consent decree between the city and the Baltimore Police Department to rein in discriminatory police practices that the department itself had negotiated over a multi-year period.

On April 13, Trump signed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which overturned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ final rule updating the regulations governing the Title X family planning program – a vital source of family planning and related preventive care for low-income, uninsured, and young people across the country.

On April 26, Trump released an outline of a tax reform plan that was viewed largely as a tax giveaway for the wealthy and big corporations.

On April 26, Trump signed an executive order directing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to conduct a study on the federal government’s role in education.

On May 4, Trump signed an executive order to overturn the Johnson Amendment, which precludes tax-exempt organizations, including places of worship, from engaging in any political campaign activity and would curtail the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

On May 11, Trump signed an executive order creating the so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has a history of trying to suppress the vote in Kansas.

On May 12, Sessions announced in a two-page memo that DOJ was abandoning its Smart on Crime initiative that had been hailed as a positive step forward in rehabilitating drug users and reducing the enormous costs of warehousing inmates.

On May 23, Trump released his fiscal year 2018 budget that included massive, unnecessary tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, which would be paid for by slashing basic living standards for the most vulnerable and by attacking critical programs like Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicaid, food assistance, and more.

On May 23, Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposed eliminating the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and transferring its functions to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This would have impeded the work of both the OFCCP and the EEOC as each have distinct missions and expertise, and would have thereby undermined the civil rights protections that employers and workers have relied on for almost 50 years.

On June 5, Trump released an infrastructure plan that focuses on putting public assets into private hands, creating another giveaway to wealthy corporations and millionaires at the expense of working families and communities.

On June 6, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testified before a Senate appropriations subcommittee and made unclear statements about whether she would allow federal funds to go to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students. She made similarly troubling statements when testifying before a House committee in late March.

On June 6, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued unclear new instructions on transgender student discrimination.

On June 8, OCR’s acting head sent a memo to OCR staff discouraging systemic investigations in favor of individual investigations of discrimination.

On June 14, DeVos decided to delay implementation of and to renegotiate the Borrower Defense to Repayment and Gainful Employment regulations.

On June 15, the administration rescinded President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, an initiative that – had it gone into effect — would have offered a pathway to citizenship for immigrant parents with children who are citizens or residents of the United States.

On June 27, Labor Secretary Acosta requested information on the Obama-era overtime rule, signaling his intent to lower the salary threshold of the overtime rule.

On June 28, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sent a letter to 44 states demanding extensive information on how they maintain their voter rolls. This request was made on the same day that President Trump’s so-called Commission on Election Integrity sent letters to all 50 states demanding intrusive and highly sensitive personal data about all registered voters.

On July 26, Trump declared in a series of tweets that he was barring transgender people from serving in the military. He followed through with a presidential memo on August 25, though the issue is still being challenged in the courts.

On July 26, the Department of Justice filed a legal brief arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation — a decision that contravened recent court decisions and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance.

On August 1The New York Times reported that the “Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.” In a move without recent precedent, this investigation and enforcement effort was planned to be run out of the Civil Rights Division’s front office by political appointees, instead of by experienced career staff in the division’s educational opportunities section.

On August 2, Trump announced his support of Republican-backed legislation that would slash legal immigration in half over a decade.

On August 7, the Justice Department filed a brief in the Supreme Court in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute arguing that it should be easier for states to purge registered voters from their rolls – reversing not only its longstanding legal interpretation, but also the position it had taken in the lower courts in that case.

On August 28, Sessions lifted the Obama administration’s ban on the transfer of some military surplus items to domestic law enforcement – rescinding guidelines that were created in the wake of Ferguson to protect the public from law enforcement misuse of military-grade weapons.

On August 29, the administration halted an EEOC rule that required large companies to disclose what they pay employees by sex, race, and ethnicity – a rule that was intended to remedy the unequal pay that remains rampant in the American workplace.

On September 5, Sessions announced that the administration was rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

On September 7, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission arguing that businesses have a right to discriminate against LGBTQ customers.

On September 15, the Department of Justice ended the Community Oriented Policing Services’ Collaborative Reform Initiative, a Justice Department program that aimed to help build trust between police officers and the communities they serve.

On September 22, DeVos announced that the Department of Education was rescinding guidance related to Title IX and schools’ obligations regarding sexual violence and educational opportunity.

On September 24, Trump issued the third version of his Muslim travel ban which, unlike the previous versions, was of indefinite duration.

On September 27, the Trump administration and Republican leadership in Congress unveiled tax principles that would provide trillions in dollars of unnecessary tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.

On October 2, DeVos rescinded 72 guidance documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities, though it wasn’t until October 21 until the public learned of the rescissions.

On October 4, the Department of Justice filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asking the court to dismiss a lawsuit against the president’s transgender military ban.

On October 5, Sessions reversed a Justice Department policy which clarified that transgender workers are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On October 6, the Department of Justice issued sweeping religious liberty guidance to federal agencies, which will create a license to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals and others.

On October 8, the White House released a list of hard-line immigration principles – a list of demands that included funding a border wall, deporting Central American children seeking sanctuary, and curbing grants to sanctuary cities, effectively stalling any possible bipartisan agreement on a bill to protect Dreamers.

On October 12, Trump signed an executive order to undermine health care and, later that day, announced that he would end subsidies for certain health care plans.

On October 27, the Department of Education announced it was withdrawing nearly 600 policy documents regarding K-12 and higher education.

On November 1, Trump signed a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, which repealed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule on forced arbitration. Overturning the rule will enable big banks, payday lenders, and other financial companies to force victims of fraud, discrimination, or other unlawful conduct into a “kangaroo court” process where their claims are decided by hired arbitration firms rather than by judges and juries – harming consumers and undermining civil rights and consumer protection laws.

On November 6, the Trump administration announced it will terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for Nicaragua.

On November 16, the Federal Communications Commission voted to gut Lifeline, the program dedicated to bringing phone and internet service within reach for people of color, low-income people, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities, with particularly egregious consequences for tribal areas. They also voted to eliminate several rules promoting competition and diversity in the broadcast media, undermining ownership chances for women and people of color.

On November 20, the Trump administration announced it would terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation in 18 months for approximately 59,000 Haitians living in the United States.

On November 24, Trump appointed Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As a member of Congress, Mulvaney supported abolishing the consumer bureau and has in the past referred to the CFPB as a “sick, sad” joke.

On December 4, the Department of Labor proposed changing its longstanding position codified in regulation that prohibited employers from pooling together tips and redistributing them to workers who don’t traditionally earn tips.

On December 12, the Department of Justice wrote to acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin requesting a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census. It was an untimely and unnecessarily intrusive request that would destroy any chance for an accurate count, discard years of careful research, and increase costs significantly.

On December 21, it was reported that Sessions rescinded 25 guidance documents, including a letter sent to chief judges and court administrators to help state and local efforts to reform harmful practices related to the assessment and enforcement of fines and fees.


On January 4, Sessions rescinded guidance that had allowed states, with minimal federal interference, to legalize marijuana. This move will further reignite the War on Drugs.

On January 8, Trump re-nominated a slate of unqualified and biased judicial nominees, including two rated Not Qualified by the American Bar Association.

On January 8, the administration announced it would terminate the Temporary Protected Status designation for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans.

On January 11, the Trump administration released new guidelines that allow states to seek waivers to require Medicaid recipients to work — requirements that represent a throwback to rejected racial stereotypes.

On January 16, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Mulvaney’s leadership announced it would reconsider the agency’s payday lending rule.

On January 17, the administration announced its decision to bar citizens from Haiti from receiving H2-A and H2-B visas.

On January 18, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a proposed rule to allow health care providers to discriminate against patients, and within the department’s Office for Civil Rights, a new division – the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division — to address related claims.

On January 18, abruptly dropped a lawsuit against four online payday lenders who unlawfully made loans of up to 950 percent APR in at least 17 states.

Shin Inouye is director of communications and media relations at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Visit

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