Posted by on December 09, 2014 in Blog

Revisions to the Department of Justice’s Guidance on the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies released this week expanded the definition of profiling to prohibit the use of religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity in addition to race and ethnicity. While the expanded definition is a small sign of progress, the Guidance fails to ban the ineffective and egregious practice of profiling.

First, the guidance applies only to the Department of Justice, not the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, exceptions are made for the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection that permit the continued use of profiling. The CBP holds authority up to 100 miles within our borders, an area that accounts for two-thirds of our nation’s population, exposing a majority of Americans to the threat of profiling. Second, because the guidance is not applicable to state and local law enforcement, profiling by local authorities will continue to go unchecked. Finally, the allowance for the continuation of mapping practices based on profiling and surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation has created space for routine and unrestricted violations of the civil liberties of our community.

We had the opportunity to join other civil rights groups on a call with US Attorney General Eric Holder in advance of the Justice Department’s release of the much anticipated new guidance regarding the use of profiling. In the frank discussion with Attorney General Holder, we asked specifically what we tell our community about the difference these new guidelines will have on some of the most pressing issues facing Arab Americans and American Muslims today. Regrettably, the answer to that question appears to be little. While the goal of eliminating profiling is the admirable stated objective, and the new guidance importantly expands the definition of profiling to include new protected characteristics including national origin and religion, the updated DOJ guidance falls short of protecting the rights of all Americans. 

We will continue to press the Administration to address these remaining issues with the guidance in order to end the use of profiling in all its form. We will continue to work towards an America that upholds, in both theory and practice, our nation’s core principle of equal justice for all and protects the civil liberties of all Americans. 

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