Tuesday May 22, 2012
Members of Congress Take Stand Against Racial Profiling
Last week Congress saw a wave of debate over the value and effectiveness of racial profiling. In the wake of updated reports over the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” practices, among other disturbing trends, some lawmakers are expressing their concerns about racial, ethnic and religious profiling.
Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduced two new pieces of legislation which seek to combat institutionalized and federally sanctioned racial profiling. Last Wednesday, he introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill, H. AMDT. 1087, which would have prohibited federal funds from aiding police forces which use ethnic or racial profiling. In his presentation of the amendment to the House, Rep. Holt specifically mentioned the practices of the New York Police Department, and called profiling “ a violation of core constitutional principles” and “not good policing.” Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the Homeland Security Committee Chairman, disagreed vehemently and defended the NYPD’s practices, saying, “the success is in their record” and “we should be giving the NYPD a medal.” The amendment was defeated when brought to a vote.
However, just a week prior, Rep. Holt introduced a resolution condemning the, “illicit ethnic and religious profiling and surveillance of Muslim American communities by the New York Police Department.” The resolution is currently in committee, and has 7 co-sponsors.
Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) has submitted a letter to the Inspector General, arguing that blatant profiling of American Muslim communities within the FBI’s civilian surveillance program violates the protections of the First Amendment and the Privacy Act. An excerpt from Stark’s letter reads,
Protecting the United States does not necessitate violating the rights of innocent people or targeting individuals because of their religious beliefs. Indeed, our nation’s security and our Constitution would be far better served if the FBI invests its resources into developing honest and transparent community relationships and investigating factually predicated criminal activity, instead of focusing on innocent Americans’ constitutionally protected activities.
Similar legislative measures, including the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 and H.Res. 283, have stagnated in Congress in the past.These new and encouraging moves by lawmakers should be supported by those who recognize the damage racial profiling does, both at a community level and nationally. You can contact your representative here to encourage them to sign Rep. Stark’s letter and co-sponsor Rep. Holt’s resolution.
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