Angel Castro-Torres, 23, a Latino immigrant living in Georgia, won a settlement in a civil lawsuit against two officers in Cobb County, Ga., who stopped him when he was riding his bicycle because he looked Latino. The officers beat Castro-Torres, breaking bones in his face after questioning him about his immigration status.
Both houses of Congress are considering bills that would seek to prevent Bailey, Castro-Torres, Singh and millions of people of color who face the possibility of being profiled from facing such discriminatory treatment.
Last week, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and 37 other members of Congress introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (ERPA), H.R. 3618—a bill that would prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and gender. ERPA is a companion bill to S 1670, introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and nine others in the Senate in October.
Support from people impacted by the problem--particularly communities of color—is substantial. The End Racial Profiling Act should be passed without delay.
Before the September 11th terrorist attacks, an earlier version of ERPA had significant bi-partisan congressional support.
The greater likelihood of African American motorists being pulled over by law enforcement became part of the national dialogue around race in the 1990s. Racial profiling garnered also great national attention following the killing of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant who was shot 19 times by New York police officers, who had no probable cause for stopping him on his Bronx street.
More than a decade ago national concern and outrage about the problem prompted federal action. In the late 1990s, President Clinton directed federal law enforcement agencies to collect data on the race and ethnicity of those they stopped. In February 2001, President George W. Bush called for passage of legislation to prohibit racial profiling.
But after the September 11 attacks, support for ERPA dropped significantly. After September 11, the government adopted many policies based on mistaken theories that religious identity or national origin makes a person more likely to engage in terrorism. Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans, as well as non-citizens of those backgrounds, became more likely to face discriminatory profiling and bias, suffering unwarranted stops, interrogations and surveillance.
When police engage in racial profiling they damage the trust developed with communities of color, making it more unlikely that these communities will feel secure in contacting them.
For Latinos racial profiling became a growing problem after 9/11, as the federal government increasingly relied on partnerships with state and local police to enforce immigration law. A 2011 Warren Institute report showed Latinos are targeted disproportionately through the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program, which involves local and state law enforcement agencies in enforcing immigration law. Although Latinos are approximately 77 percent of the undocumented population, 93 percent of those arrested through Secure Communities are Latino.
In addition to banning racial profiling, ERPA would create training programs to guard against racial profiling and civil rights abuses. The bill would mandate data collection and monitoring, create a procedure for investigating and responding to complaints of victims of racial profiling and create a private right of action that would enable victims of racial profiling to seek redress.
Racial profiling is deeply rooted in our country’s history of racial inequity and segregation. It’s time to end this discrimination by passing ERPA without delay.
Hafiz is Policy Director at the Rights Working Group