Racial profiling of minorities in US persists, ACLU says

Reuters / July 1, 2009
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ATLANTA - US authorities detain thousands of people each year solely on the basis of religion, race, or nationality despite efforts by senior law enforcement officials and the government to stop it, the American Civil Liberties Union said.

An ACLU report said racial profiling was often applied to immigrants from South Asia and to North Africans suspected of being Islamic militants after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The report, submitted yesterday to the UN Committee to End Racial Discrimination, said profiling could involve harassment, detention, arrest, or investigation.

Many Latin American immigrants were also targeted for immigration violations while others, including black Americans, were profiled as suspected drug offenders, according to the report.

The Obama administration upholds the policy that such profiling should end, but related laws contain a significant gray area, said Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s human rights program. It is illegal to detain or investigate someone solely on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity, but there are exceptions in the context of national security and border control.

“While there is a political consensus regarding the problem and a need for a solution it has not translated into concrete action,’’ Bhatnagar said. He referred to the End Racial Profiling Bill first introduced in 1997, but which had not yet been passed into law.

One factor that had increased the profiling of Latin Americans was a federal program to shift responsibility and resources for immigration enforcement to local and state authorities, according to the report. .