During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised to "vigorously pursue" hate crimes and civil rights cases.
When we last updated this promise, the U.S. Justice Department had already bolstered its efforts to pursue cases related to hate crimes and civil rights abuses, which earned it a rating of "In the Works.”
Has that continued?
"The answer is absolutely, yes," said Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.
Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, agreed that the administration had delivered on this promise.
"Maybe no one can live up to their campaign rhetoric, but they've done a pretty darn good job,” Cohen said.
Both Cohen and Lieberman referred us to President Obama's signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which broadens federal jurisdiction in prosecuting hate crimes. It also expands the definition of a hate crime to include bias-motivated crimes based on a victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
Lieberman called this the most important federal criminal civil rights enforcement law in 40 years; before it was passed, there were 45 states and the District of Columbia with hate crimes prevention laws, but they did not all cover the same categories of crimes.
"It provides limited but important (federal) government authority to act when state or local officials can't or won't," he said.
Cohen also noted that the Civil Rights Division has been active in pursuing cases involving equal opportunities for employment and education.
We found that the Civil Rights Division pursued record numbers of criminal civil rights cases in both 2009 and 2010. It established a dedicated Fair Lending Unit to stop discriminatory lending practices against minorities. It has pursued cases to ensure citizens with disabilities and overseas military personnel have the opportunity to vote.
This is not an exhaustive list of every action the Civil Rights Division has taken, nor are we passing judgment on the effectiveness of the division in ending all hate crimes and civil rights abuses. As the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Thomas Perez, acknowledged in a testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee, hate crimes are on the rise and civil rights remains "unfinished business.” Still, it is clear that the division has made a renewed and robust commitment to enforcing civil rights and prosecuting hate crimes.
We rate this a Promise Kept.