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9 Mar, 2012

U.S. Islamic Civil Rights Group Urges Lawmakers to End Racial, Religious Profiling

WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/8/2012 – Representatives of the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the United States fanned out across the U.S. Congress this past week to press legislators for an end to racial and religious profiling by U.S. security agencies.

According to a brief by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), “Since September 11, 2001, thousands of innocent Americans have been wrongfully targeted by federal law enforcement officials because of their race, religion and national origin. They have been searched, investigated, and detained without cause in the name of national security.”

Most of them are Muslims or those mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikhs, Hindus and people of South Asian or Middle Eastern origin.

Today, more than 10 years later, after thousands of complaints, legislation known as the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (ERPA) is awaiting passage by the U.S. Senate and House. The act, which was introduced into the U.S. Senate and House respectively on October 6 and December 9, 2011, “would prohibit and promote measures to eliminate profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement,” CAIR says.

On March 5 and 6, 2012, known as Capitol Hill Advocacy Days, representatives from more than 20 chapters of CAIR met with elected officials and staff at 66 Democratic, one Independent and 46 Republican offices to raise concerns over ongoing racial and religious profiling and “supporting due process for all Americans.”

A CAIR legislative fact-sheet says, “In 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) made a partial attempt to put a stop to racial profiling by issuing a policy guidance that banned federal law enforcement officials from engaging in such activities. However, the guidance remains ineffective because it includes open-ended loopholes that allow federal law enforcement agencies to profile at U.S. borders and for reasons of national security.”

The  fact-sheet says that U.S. Immigration Customs and Border Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continue to use ethnicity as a “relevant factor” in decisions to make immigration stops. It says the guidance “has no enforcement mechanism, and is not applicable to state and local law enforcement agencies working in cooperation with federal agencies or receiving federal funds.”

In their meetings with CAIR chapter representatives, members of Congress were urged to send or support a letter to the DOJ that requests the department to revise the 2003 policy guidance on racial profiling to:

•  Include measures that prevent profiling based on religion and national origin by requiring:

•   Federal law enforcement agencies to maintain policies and procedures that eliminate profiling and any pre-existing practices of profiling.

•   States and local governments working in cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies or seeking federal grants to certify that they maintain policies and practices to eliminate profiling. They must also establish procedures and programs for addressing complaints of profiling.

•   Eliminate loopholes that permit profiling at U.S. borders and for reasons of national security.

•   Ensure that the guidance is enforceable.

According to CAIR, “Profiling is unconstitutional. (It) violates the basic Constitutional protections of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Profiling hinders anti-terrorism efforts. Profiling is not effective law enforcement. Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bombing, 1995), John Bedell (Pentagon Shooting, 2010), and Joseph Stack (IRS – Austin, TX Suicide Bombing, 2010) would not have been identified (as terrorists, based on purely racial considerations).”

CAIR says that “there is bi-partisan support for banning racial, religious and ethnic profiling. Many law enforcement and government agencies also do not support it.”

It notes, “In 2009, President Obama pledged to ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide incentives to state and local law enforcement agencies to prohibit the practice. In 2001, President George W. Bush proclaimed in his State of the Union address, “[Racial profiling is] wrong, and we will end it in America.”

“Former Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke stated that the department is “opposed to the concept of racial profiling,” and its profiling techniques are based on suspect behavior rather than targeting ethnicities or faiths.

“In a 2006 report, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommended that all law enforcement agencies put an end to racial profiling.”

In a similar vein, the CAIR chapter representatives also asked congressional members to support the “End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) of 2011”. CAIR says that if passed and signed into law, ERPA would require:

•  Federal law enforcement agencies to maintain policies and procedures eliminating racial profiling and any pre-existing practices of racial profiling.

•  State and local government applying for federal law enforcement assistance grants to certify that they maintain similar policies and practices to eliminate racial profiling. They must also establish procedures and programs for addressing complaints of racial profiling.

•  The Attorney General to collect data on hit rates for stops and searches by law enforcement agents. He or she must also create grants to develop and implement best practice devices and systems to eliminate racial profiling.

According to CAIR, “In 2012, the National Council of Law Enforcement Organizations (NCLEO) signed a letter in support of ERPA. NCLEO members include the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, the National Asian Peace Officers Association, the National Latino Peace Officers Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Women in Federal Law Enforcement.”

Although the practise has contributed to traveller aggravation in the travel, tourism and transportation sectors, especially involving airlines and airport security checkpoints, not a single industry organisation or association has mustered the courage to speak out against it.