Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, Democrat from New Orleans and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote a three-page letter Wednesday to Donald Trump declining his invitation to the CBC to meet with him, and outlining the many reasons the group as a whole is saying no.
In a letter dated June 21 (pdf), Richmond opened by acknowledging the president’s recent request to meet with the CBC:
In written communication dating back to January 2017, we have shared the priorities of the Caucus as they relate to the Black community. We are serious about the work of advancing the interests of our people and the goals of the CBC. As a result, we took advantage of every opportunity to educate you on the needs of the Black community and provide you with the information and solutions necessary to act on them in good faith. Through an objective assessment, we have seen no evidence that your Administration acted on our calls for action, and we have in fact witnessed steps that will affirmatively hurt Black communities. While we agreed to explore possible future discussions when we first met, it has become abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire CBC would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by your Administration since our first meeting. While you can solicit the engagement of individual members of our caucus, the CBC as a caucus declines your invitation to meet at this time.
Richmond noted that in March, the CBC presented Trump with a 130-page policy document in order to educate him and his administration on the difficult history of black people in the United States, the history of the CBC and solutions that could help advance black families in the 21st century. The Trump administration has both failed to respond to the policies the CBC outlined and neglected to follow through on its pledge to facilitate meetings between the CBC and relevant Cabinet officials, Richmond said.
In other words, Trump and his administration have only paid lip service to addressing the needs of black people in the U.S. and never intended to follow through on any of the empty promises that have been made thus far.
In fact, as Richmond outlined, the administration has acted in opposition to the policy initiatives the caucus has supported, proposing budget cuts to programs that serve low- and moderate-income people, including a $4 billion cut to Pell Grants, which help low-income students pay for college; and the complete elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, “which helps seniors and other helpless populations heat their homes in the winter and cool them in the summer.”
In the letter, Richmond added:
Moreover, your administration has taken actions that cause legitimate alarm among members of this caucus and the millions of Americans we represent. In a two-page document, your Attorney General issued guidance to federal prosecutors to accelerate the failed war on drugs that will continue to wreck the Black community and exacerbate our nation’s scourge of mass incarceration. Attorney General Sessions has also explicitly stated his unwillingness to utilize consent decrees to protect the civil rights of Americans and has called for an agency-wide review of these agreements. These shortsighted decisions represent willful ignorance by relying on ideology instead of data and compassion. Every dollar we spend on incarceration renders our communities less safe.