Rights Groups Call on Attorney General to Strengthen Racial Profiling Guidance

May 8, 2012, Washington, D.C. – Today, 206 civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights and faith-based organizations pressed Attorney General Eric Holder to fulfill his stated commitment to ending racial profiling by reforming the Department of Justice (DOJ) June 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.

The groups called on Holder to address profiling by: 1) prohibiting profiling based on religion or national origin; 2) closing the loopholes for the border and national security; 3) applying the Guidance to state and local law enforcement who work in partnership with the federal government or receive federal funding; 4) covering surveillance activities; and 5) making the Guidance enforceable.

“The attorney general has on numerous occasions discussed his commitment to ending racial profiling,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group. “But Holder has not made good on those promises.”

A year and a half ago, advocacy groups first asked Holder to strengthen federal protection against racial profiling by substantively reforming the Guidance. He recently rejected an opportunity to meet with advocates to discuss this matter.

“After some 18 months of advocacy on this matter we renew our calls for reform,” said Huang. “Racial profiling is unconstitutional, dehumanizing and harmful, particularly for communities of color that are constantly subjected to it.”

Rights groups are not the only ones that have been requesting these reforms. A few weeks ago, more than 65 members of Congress, led by Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. John Conyers, requested through a memberletterthat the DOJ take action to reform the Guidance.

“Whether you consider the discriminatory use of stop-and-frisk policies in New York City to target black and brown males or discriminatory practices targeting Latinos in Maricopa County, Ariz. and East Haven, Conn., within the context of immigration enforcement, there is substantial evidence of the need for protection from racial profiling,” Huang said. “Similarly there is evidence of the FBI targeting various communities for surveillance, including the Muslim community, the Latino community, the African American community, the Russian American community and the Chinese American community. Throughout the northeast the New York Police Department has monitored Muslims in mosques, grocery stores, cafes and in student organizations. ”

“The facts clearly show that federal action is needed to prohibit law enforcement agencies from engaging in discriminatory practices,” Huang said. “How long should communities have to wait to have their constitutional right to equal protection of the laws safeguarded?”