Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Blog

While concerned citizens and advocacy groups have been arguing for months that the NYPDs surveillance of Arab Americans and American Muslims is illegal and counterproductive, the cause has been mostly ignored by political leaders. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, offered a full-throated defense of the surveillance program after Associated Press reporters discovered its existence, and President Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, also defended the program. However, efforts to end the NYPD surveillance program have recently gained an important ally in Congress: New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rush Holt.

Yesterday, Rep. Holt introduced H.AMDT 1087, an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have prohibited federal funds from going to police departments that use ethnic or religious profiling. The amendment would have stripped the NYPD and other police departments using similar tactics of the federal grants they receive each year. Holt spoke forcefully in favor of the amendment and the principals behind it on the House floor, arguing that profiling is both illegal and unhelpful to the cause of catching actual terrorists. Unfortunately, the amendment failed after a 232-193 vote. Despite this unfortunate result, Rep. Holt’s amendment is an important step in showing the NYPD the dissatisfaction of members of Congress and in identifying which representatives are willing to stand up for the constitutional rights of their Arab American and American Muslim constituents. Consult the vote on the amendment to see how your representative voted. If they voted in favor, take a minute to call or email their office and thank them. If they voted against, call or email to voice your displeasure and encourage them to reconsider their position.

Rep. Holt has also introduced H.RES 651, a resolution which would express the House of Representatives’ disapproval of the NYPD’s use of ethnic and religious profiling. Though the resolution is nonbinding, its passage would be a strong signal to Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly that the Congress disapproves of their surveillance program. It would also pressure the Obama Administration to take a stronger stand against profiling.

comments powered by Disqus