Legislators and Civil Rights Groups Call on Congress to End Racial Profiling

At a press conference this week designed to push Congress and the Obama administration to pass the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (ERPA), the Rights Working Group released a new report advocating not only for the prohibition of racial profiling but for greater oversight of law enforcement with regard to civil rights protections.

Reclaiming Our Rights: Reflections on Racial Profiling in a Post-9/11 America” is comprised of personal essays from leaders in the civil rights community, members of Congress, and retired law enforcement officers along with recommendations for how to end racial profiling. The report also discusses how federal attempts to end racial profiling became more difficult after the September 11 terror attacks and how the broad congressional support for passing ERPA faded after the attacks.

Recommendations in the report include passage of comprehensive immigration reform legislation and ERPA. ERPA would prohibit all law enforcement agencies from racial profiling, require agencies to collect data on the number of stops, searches, and arrests by race and gender, end programs and policies that result in racial profiling, and allows victims of racial profiling to sue local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies.

“The violation of civil rights and civil liberties caused by racial profiling remains a serious problem for many communities of color,” said Margaret Huang, the executive director of Rights Working Group. “After September 11, we saw an expansion of profiling in the context of national security at our airports and border entry points. And in the immigration context, the use of local and state police to enforce federal immigration law has unfairly targeted certain communities of migrants for scrutiny and harassment.”

Racial profiling is the reliance by law enforcement on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion in deciding whom to investigate, arrest, or detain. Civil and human rights groups have called on Congress to support the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 and put a stop to profiling that has been institutionalized by many law enforcement authorities.  The bill will be introduced this fall by Senator Ben Cardin, D. Md., in the Senate and Rep. John Conyers, D. Mich., in the House of Representatives.