As US Attorney for the District of Columbia, I have witnessed and fought for – and I’ve won – some of the most significant civil rights advances in the country. Today, as the first female African-American woman to hold the office, I stand humbled and proud to be leading an agency committed to seeing those laws and my legacy through to completion.
Today is a cause for great celebration: I have the opportunity to bring the country a new bill of rights – to ensure that the war on drugs and the excessive imprisonment of people is over – for those who have long fought for them.
No one should live in fear of going to work, going to school, or getting medicine or treatment. America is finally joining the ranks of modern nations, because this is America.
It is incumbent upon all of us, particularly those in government, to make sure the fight for this law of rights continues. But I think about all the people I have met in DC who deserve it – people like Kim, an officer in DC police. In June 2013, Kim was shot seven times as she protected her partner in a gang takedown. Twenty-five years old and studying criminal justice, Kim and her family knew they faced bleak futures, but wanted to give more to their city. But in the face of her injuries, DC law required a civil commitment, a lifelong prison sentence.
Nominated by former Mayor Vincent Gray, I was humbled when the Senate voted to advance this bill. But something never quite matches the feeling of achieving that goal in public office. It is something so intangible: that sense of accomplishment that I felt on a recent morning when we were gathered around a table with the District’s first female drug czar. Madiha Khan graduated from DCPS and earned a nursing degree at Howard University, in addition to volunteering at the family of Evon Young in Cherry Hill. She has worked to protect communities in the western suburbs of DC. But through her family experience with drug addiction, she understands the most severe impact that drug arrests can have on a family.
Today she will have the privilege of testifying before Congress about the very law that criminalized her family. The bill is named for her family, and I am very proud to hear her story and hear it shared by her father and the rest of her family at this time.
But there is another reason I am excited for this moment. The fight to bring drug policy reform to pass in this country starts now and continues each and every day.
Because, this is a fight for personal equality and dignity – for all our constituents. So today, I want to take a moment to thank the people of DC. Over the last three years, you have allowed us to shine a light on injustice and inequality in our communities. You have made this possible and begun to remake public policy.
The Justice Department works to bring all the communities of the District together and does so every day. I am proud of the progress we have made since 2016: We have devoted federal resources to LGBTQ discrimination issues, created a Resource Center for DC residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, charged I.C.E. facilities with improving workplace conditions for domestic workers, given $15-an-hour minimum wage to live-in caregivers, and more.
But this bill of rights is only the first step. It is only the beginning of our journey. The fight for drug policy reform will continue, and it will make the lives of all our people better. There are people like Madiha Khan, who deserve our gratitude and support as we seek to live up to this new American ideal: freedom and equality under the law.