WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSFA) - The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act, a bipartisan bill led by Alabama’s Sen. Doug Jones (D) and Texas' Sen. Ted Cruz (R), has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Jones and Cruz have been working to move the bill toward passage for months. It became law with Trump’s signature Tuesday evening.
The law requires the review, declassification, and release of government records related to unsolved criminal civil rights cases.
It all started with a group of students from Hightstown High School in Hightstown, New Jersey, and their teacher, Stuart Wexler.
“This moment has been years in the making. I want to thank my colleagues Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Bobby Rush (sponsor in the U.S. House) for their strong partnership throughout this effort, which started with a group of talented high school students who encountered a problem and wanted to find a solution," Jones said. "I am excited that their classroom idea and the solution we worked on together has now been signed into law by the President of the United States. I also appreciate the comments the President made in his signing statement in support of our legislation and his encouragement that Congress appropriate funds for its implementation. This law sends a powerful message to those impacted by these horrific crimes and to young folks in this country who want to make a difference. I know how deeply painful these Civil Rights-era crimes remain for communities so by shedding light on these investigations I hope we can provide an opportunity for healing and closure.”
“I am grateful to have worked with Sen. Jones on this important bill,” Sen. Cruz said. “The unsolved crimes committed against Americans seeking their rightful place in the American dream during the civil rights movement casts a dark shadow on an important chapter of American history. It is my hope that, with additional sunlight to these cold cases, there will be revelation, justice, and closure where it has long been lacking.”
Jones is no stranger to issues of civil rights. He successfully prosecuted two of the former KKK members responsible for the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
In 2007, he testified to the House Judiciary Committee in support of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act that established a special initiative in the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate civil rights cold cases. He spoke about the difficulty of prosecuting these cases so many years after the crimes were committed and pointed to the importance of sharing information in order to find the truth.