U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will defend his department’s civil rights record and attempt to build bridges with area Arab-American and Muslim leaders when he visits Detroit today.

Gonzales, still facing calls for his resignation over his recent firing of eight U.S. attorneys, is expected to highlight national and Detroit area civil rights successes by his department, following recent reports that the number of civil rights cases initiated by the Justice Department has declined.

Gonzales will address a Detroit Economic Club luncheon at the Dearborn Marriott following a morning discussion with area leaders from the Arab, Chaldean and Muslim communities.

Civil rights issues will be the focus of the luncheon speech, officials said.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in April that the number of civil rights cases initiated by the FBI — an arm of the Justice Department — have dropped sharply nationally since 2001 as resources shifted toward counterterrorism. For example, the FBI is handling 60 percent fewer hate crime cases today than in 2000, the newspaper reported.

“Our civil rights complaints have gone up steadily since 9/11, while their handling of civil rights cases has gone down,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan.


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