[JURIST] US Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez [official profile] said Thursday that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] plans to increase its efforts to prosecute hate crimes. The DOJ brought 25 federal hate crime cases [AP report] during the first year of the Obama administration, which is the highest annual number since 2001. The number had fallen as low as 12 in 2006. According to Perez, this was not due to the lack of hate crimes in the country, but rather a lack of enforcement during the Bush administration. Perez said he plans to hire more than 100 new employees in the Civil Rights Division to increase enforcement of all civil rights laws.
The announcement from the Civil Rights Division comes the same week that it filed hate crime charges [NYT report] in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant last year. Earlier this month, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] reported [JURIST report] that enforcement of various civil rights laws, including hate crimes laws, decreased during the Bush administration. In September, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said that the DOJ planned to expand its Civil Rights Division [JURIST report] and more actively enforce anti-discrimination laws. The increased focus on civil rights marks a change in focus from the previous administration, which, according to the New York Times [NYT report; JURIST report], shifted resources from preventing racial discrimination to protecting religious rights.