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Senate Holds Racial Profiling Hearing

Senate Holds Racial Profiling Hearing

On Tuesday, Senator Durbin (D-IL), as Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, held a hearing on racial profiling. This was the first Senate hearing on racial profiling since 2000, when then-Senator John Ashcroft convened a hearing on the same issue. Under his tenure as Attorney General under President George W. Bush, the Civil Rights Division issued a “Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.” While this is a commendable effort to prevent law enforcement officials from using physical appearance as a basis for action, Senator Durbin stated Tuesday that this guidance must be revised to account for additional circumstances in which racial profiling is all too easily a means of law enforcement.

Racial profiling not only strips away our right to equal protection under the law, but it actually makes our communities less safe by eroding trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are supposed to protect. Moreover, racial profiling is ineffective and inefficient because decisions are based on false pretenses rather than actual criminal behavior.

Founded out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Religious Action Center has been a strong and consistent voice speaking out against racial profiling. Judaism teaches respect for the fundamental rights of others as each person's duty to God. Equality in the Jewish tradition is based on the concept that all of God's children are "created in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27). Racial profiling violates this most basic concept by treating others differently solely because of their appearance. Furthermore, as the Reform Movement pointed out along with 35 other organizations in a letter to Senator Durbin this week, religious profiling, which is sometimes used as a proxy for race, is just as troubling and divisive.

In order to combat the injustices resulting from such malpractices, Senator Durbin, Representative Conyers (D-MI), and 64 other Members of Congress sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting that the Justice Department revise its profiling guidance to include the prohibition of profiling based on national origin and religion and extend the prohibition to national security and border control investigations (currently, the guidance only prohibits profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity and in the context of “traditional law enforcement activities,” such as traffic stops).

Additionally, in Tuesday’s hearing Senator Durbin called on his fellow Members of Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (S. 1670/HR 3618), which would prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, local and tribal levels. Send an email urging your Senators and Representative to support this bill!


Photo courtesy of Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Published: 4/19/2012

Categories: Social Justice
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