ACLU Raps Discrimination Report

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Moran The Register-Guard

American Civil Liberties Union officials in Eugene on Sunday sharply criticized a government report addressing the state of racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States, saying the account severely minimizes problems prevalent in Oregon as well as nationwide.

A forum hosted by ACLU of Oregon at the Eugene Public Library included a preview of the organization's formal rebuttal to a U.S. State Department report chronicling recent efforts undertaken by the government to battle inequality.

Programs and laws cited in the federal report don't go far enough to prove the government's commitment to eliminating racism, ACLU officials said.

"We were expecting better," said Chandra Bhatnagar, an attorney for the ACLU's national Human Rights Program.

"Racial discrimination remains deeply entrenched in all levels of American society," he said.

An international human rights treaty ratified by the United States in 1994 obligates public officials at all levels of government to protect and promote equality.

U.S. compliance with the treaty - known as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination - will be the subject of a pair of public meetings in February at United Nations head-quarters in Geneva. There, a U.N. committee will rule on U.S. compliance with the pact.

Any recommendations made by the international group for improved U.S. performance would not be legally binding. But Bhatnagar said a poor review could equate to "public shaming" and put diplomatic pressure on the United States to increase its efforts.

Later today, the ACLU will officially release its response to the State Department document. The ACLU "shadow report" is designed to shed light on areas in which the government is not addressing discrimination. …