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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks at a press conference at Corona Plaza in Queens on April 14, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

'Not On Our Watch': AOC, In Powerful Floor Speech, Declares House Democrats Will Protect Civil Rights Law From Trump

"There is a difference between saying that we believe in the inherent dignity, equality, and value of our black brothers and sisters and actually committing to it."

Eoin Higgins

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday evening delivered an impassioned speech defending a longstanding civil rights law which combats the racist practice of redlining that is under attack by the White House. 

"Over the last several weeks, our nation has been gripped by the uprising against anti-black racism and systemic racial injustice across the United States," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But there is a difference between saying that we believe in the inherent dignity, equality and value of our black brothers and sisters and actually committing to it. And the Community Reinvestment Act is one such commitment."

Ocasio-Cortez was speaking in favor of a resolution brought to the floor by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) condemning attacks on the CRA. The law, enacted in 1977, requires banks to do business with homeowners in lower-income neighborhoods, thereby reducing the frequency of redlining. 

Long a thorn in the side of banking interests in the country, the law has been quietly under attack by President Donald Trump's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which has weakened regulations set by the act. 

In an open letter urging lawmakers to support the CRA, a coalition of groups led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights emphasized the role of housing in the protection of Black lives. 

According to the letter:

It is clear that the CRA needs to be modernized and strengthened in order to fulfill its original purpose. But in January, the OCC and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would instead significantly weaken the CRA. The agencies proposed new overly simplistic metrics system that would make it far easier for banks to pass their CRA exams by making large investments in communities where they can reap the largest rewards, rather than carefully-targeted, smaller investments in underserved consumers and neighborhoods.

In her remarks, Ocasio-Cortez noted the disconnect between GOP public declarations of sympathy and support for victims of racism and police brutality—seen in widely criticized Republican-led legislation purportedly aimed at police reform—and the real world effects of the party's policy priorities. 

"While this administration and the Republican Party paid lip service to Black and brown communities with toothless policing legislation, behind everyone's back the OCC made moves to gut rules around CRA and advance the continued economic oppression of Black people in the United States," said Ocasio-Cortez. "In fact, these rule changes advance gentrification and value luxury housing over investment in Black lives."

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