Posted by Guest on February 28, 2017 in Blog

By Basseem Maleki

In 2011, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 – an ambitious bill designed to prevent racial profiling by law enforcement agencies. It was never put to a vote in the 112th Congress; however, this did not stop Senator Cardin from reintroducing the legislation in the 113th and 114th Congress. Time and again, Congress failed to enact the bill. Despite these fruitless attempts, Senator Cardin has reintroduced this legislation to the 115th Congress with one major update – the necessary inclusion of religion in the bill’s title. On February 16, 2017, Senator Cardin introduced the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 (ERRPA). The ERRPA aims to “enforce the constitutional right to equal protection of the laws by eliminating racial, religious and discriminatory profiling through changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice.” While previous versions of this legislation also included text that would prevent religious profiling, the addition of religion to the title brings religious profiling to the front and center of the bill – a direct response to President Trump’s Muslim Ban and the growing anti-Muslim sentiment plaguing the country.

Safeguarding American Muslims’ rights is essential in the U.S. where anti-Muslim sentiment is rampant. Anti-Muslim hate crimes reached 9/11 era highs in 2015; 2016 saw a 197% increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in America; and President Trump ended his first week in office with the release of an Executive Order that was a Muslim Ban. American Muslims, more than ever, need the help of law enforcement agencies to address bigotry.

The inclusion of religion in the ERRPA is important because law enforcement agencies have a history of targeting Muslims. The New York Police Department (NYPD), for example, is guilty of profiling Muslims on the basis of their religion. In 2013, the NYPD came under fire after the discovery that it had designated entire mosques as “terrorism enterprises” – subjecting worshipers to invasive surveillance measures. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NYPD’s “suspicionless surveillance program has swept up Muslim communities throughout New York City, as well as every mosque within 100 miles of New York, and extended to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and more.” While the NYPD’s mosque surveillance program is limited in scope, President Trump’s campaign promise to survey mosques throughout the U.S. indicates that the Trump administration hopes to implement similar policy nationwide.

The ERRPA would prevent this infringement on American civil liberties by withholding federal law enforcement funds until local governments adopt policies that would prohibit religious and racial profiling. The bill also mandates that Federal law enforcement training includes preventative measures for racial and religious profiling. The Trump Administration’s targeting of religious and racial minorities makes Senator Cardin’s latest attempt at passing anti-discriminatory legislation more needed than ever. It is crucial that you act now and demand that your members of congress pass this legislation.

Basseem Maleki is a Spring 2017 intern with the Arab American Institute