LOS ANGELES (Dec. 9, 2014) — Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is disappointed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s revised Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, released yesterday. The new Guidance replaces the Justice Department’s 2003 Guidance which purported to end the use of racial profiling by federal law enforcement but which contained large loopholes that gave federal law enforcement express permission to discriminate on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity in the name of national security and border protection.
The much awaited new Guidance unfortunately falls far short of what federal officials themselves acknowledge is a widespread problem – unwarranted law enforcement profiling and targeting of immigrants and communities of color who are engaged in such routine and constitutionally protected activities as freedom of movement and freedom of association. “We reject the idea that law enforcement cannot engage in effective border protection and safeguard national security without subjecting immigrants and communities of color to unjustified scrutiny which has not made us more safe,” said Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “The significant exceptions carved out for federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, TSA and CBP that affords them wide latitude to engage in racial and religious profiling in their core work, as well as near unfettered discretion by local law enforcement to do the same, means that little will change for communities who have for too long been stigmatized for just going about their daily lives.”
Even as Attorney General Eric Holder stated in announcing the new Guidelines that “we can’t afford to profile, to do law enforcement on the basis of stereotypes,” the Guidance sanctions just that. In particular, the Guidance specifically allows the FBI to target entire religious and ethnic communities under the guise of “getting to know a community and its features” – a practice that has resulted in the FBI infiltrating mosques and other community spaces through unscrupulous informants in thinly-based “national security” investigations that are often formulated after the fact. Likewise, the new Guidance provides the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) wide discretion to engage in racial and religious profiling. Other exceptions persist for U.S. Border Patrol interdiction activities in the vicinity of the border by US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) interdiction activities at ports of entry, leaving little ability to combat acknowledged and ongoing abuses.
The selective targeting and gross generalizations of South Asian, Muslim, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities also reinforces the likelihood that they will be the subject of hate crimes and discrimination in the public sector. Just last week a Muslim boy of 15 was deliberately struck and killed after leaving evening prayers at his local Mosque in Kansas City by a driver that allegedly targeted him solely because of his Muslim faith.
Moreover, in the wake of the very real casualties of Black men and boys at the hands of local law enforcement in recent weeks, we are especially troubled by the failure to expand the Guidance to extend to ongoing and unchecked racial profiling by local law enforcement agencies with who the federal government increasingly engages in information sharing.
The large carve-outs in the Guidance permit racial and religious profiling which will continue to harm many immigrant communities and communities of color including South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, Latino, and Black communities. Racial and religious profiling of these communities stigmatizes them as inherently suspect. By treating our communities as suspect, community members continue to live in danger of discrimination and infringement of their protected rights. Many of our South Asian, Muslim and Arab community members not only experience regular profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement agents at our borders, airports, and roads but are subject to discriminatory surveillance by FBI informants that are recruited based on their religion, national origin and race and infiltrate their religious and cultural spaces. The Guidance released today only reinforces the continued profiling our community members face.
Advancing Justice – LA demands an end to racial profiling by law enforcement across the nation and stands in solidarity with all impacted communities, particularly immigrant communities and communities of color, in working to create a more equitable and harmonious society.