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Civil Rights


Education and Labor

A quality public education is a powerful force for economic and social mobility. As Chair of the Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, I am working to expand opportunities for people of all backgrounds. We must close the equity gap for students of color, who continue to face disparate outcomes in our public education system.


The Trump administration has been undermining, rather than protecting, the civil rights of students and workers. I take seriously the obligation of Congress to advance equity, hold institutions accountable, and provide meaningful oversight of the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the Trump administration. I will fight for all students and workers so they can learn and work in safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments.

LGBTQ Equality

All Americans should be free from discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I have long advocated for LGBTQ rights. I’ve challenged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reinstate protections for transgender students, and I’m leading the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act, which would update the Older Americans Act to strengthen safeguards for LGBT elders.


I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Equality Act, H.R. 5, to amend our civil rights laws to clarify that prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex includes prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Elections and Access to Voting

The right to vote is the core of our democracy, and it is critical that all Americans who qualify to vote have the opportunity to make their voices heard at the polls. For too long our nation did not allow minorities to vote; even after that right was afforded to all Americans, many jurisdictions engaged in shameful practices that effectively made it impossible for many citizens to exercise their rights.


In the 1960’s, the Voting Rights Act gave all citizens equal access to our election process, regardless of race. In the 1970’s, The Federal Election Campaign Act brought a new era of transparency and accountability in campaign finance, and thirty years later Congress passed the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act to rid the system of unchecked corporate soft-money. 


But the right of all citizens to fully participate in our democracy is under threat in ways we haven’t seen since the civil rights and post-Watergate eras. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision undermined that intent. There is no question that Citizens United has harmed our democracy, and it must be overturned. The Supreme Court further undermined voting rights by overturning key provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, making it easier for states and localities to implement discriminatory practices that block access to the ballot box.


Voter suppression efforts and voter identification laws often restrict access for minority, military, disabled, and low-income voters, as well as seniors and college students. I am also deeply concerned about potential foreign interference in elections.


I am a strong supporter of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which addresses campaign finance reform, voting rights, election security, accountability for government officials, and more. It includes many of the voting provisions that Oregonians have already adopted and appreciate, helping states across the country follow Oregon’s lead by expanding automatic voter registration, online registration, having paper ballots, and vote-by-mail to make it easier for millions of people to exercise their right to vote.


Access to Justice  

Our democracy relies on an accessible and effective justice system to adjudicate rights and wrongs. When I was in law school, I helped low-income families access quality legal advice through Legal Aid. More than 60 million Americans qualify for legal assistance programs, and these attorneys assist the most vulnerable in our society, including military veterans seeking disability benefits, women seeking protection from their abusers, and families facing unlawful evictions. I have fought hard for full funding for Legal Aid, and I oppose efforts to eliminate funding for these vital programs.

More on Civil Rights

August 30, 2019 In The News

Washington County resident Isidro Andrade Tafolla and the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a federal claim against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, seeking $100,000 for his humiliation, emotional distress and psychological harm after he was questioned by ICE agents in September 2017.?

The case raises troubling questions about how people of color are treated in our community. And about how "safe" a "safe haven" our courthouses are.

August 13, 2019 In The News

A Forest Grove man detained by immigration officials outside the Washington County Circuit Court in Hillsboro says he's fighting back.

August 12, 2019 In The News

Immigrant rights advocates are looking for legal and political help to prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from detaining people at county courthouses.

ICE has a policy that discourages enforcement actions at sensitive locations such as schools, hospitals and churches. Some in Congress, including U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, want to codify the policy into federal law and expand it to apply to courthouses.

August 1, 2019 In The News

Human rights defenders on Wednesday wished imprisoned Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul a "happy" 30th birthday - the second Hathloul has spent behind bars since being jailed last year.

The Saudi women's rights activist is one of 11 women detained in May last year amid a wide sweeping crackdown on dissent.

US Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici also noted Hathloul's birthday, calling the activist's treatment in prison a "clear sign of the human rights violations occurring in Saudi Arabia". 

July 29, 2019 Press Release
As a mother, it’s heartbreaking to visit detained migrant children and teenagers who made the dangerous journey to the United States, many of them without a parent, in search of safety.
July 28, 2019 In The News

Four Democratic members of Oregon’s congressional delegation spent their Sunday morning on a tour of two Portland-based facilities that house young migrants who traveled to the United States without a parent or legal guardian.

July 16, 2019 In The News

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a remarkable political repudiation, the Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday night to condemn President Donald Trump's "racist comments" against four congresswomen of color, despite protestations by Trump's Republican congressional allies and his own insistence he hasn't "a racist bone in my body."

July 15, 2019 In The News

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon and Washington lawmakers are condemning President Donald Trump’s racist attacks on Democratic congresswomen as the president’s ratcheted up his comments at a White House event on Monday, including saying he wasn’t concerned by white nationalists embracing his rhetoric.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici also castigated the president over his comments.

June 26, 2019 In The News

[click link for video]

Oregon Democratic Representative Suzanne Bonamici talks one-on-one with KATU's Genevieve Reaume about the treatment of children and at the southern border, Special Council Robert Mueller's scheduled testimony to House committees, and the current political dysfunction in Oregon's Capitol.

June 4, 2019 Press Release
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the American Dream and Promise Act to stand with the thousands of Dreamers across the country and in Oregon.