The Long Road to Ending Racial and Religious Profiling

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UPDATE: The End Racial Profiling Act, HR 1498 was introduced in the House on March 10. Ask your members of Congress to support it.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, first introduced the End Racial Profiling Act in the U.S. Senate in 2011, to the 112th Congress, which never put it to a vote. Undeterred, Cardin introduced it again, to both the 113th and the 114th Congress. In December 2016, Sue Udry, of BORDC/DDF, wrote: “For years we have lobbied for the End Racial Profiling Act, and again the bill did not even get considered in either chamber.”

What’s that saying about how rejection makes you stronger? Sen. Cardin is back again, and this time he has included religious profiling in the bill. It’s the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017, or the ERRPA, and Cardin, along with 27 co-sponsors, introduced it in the 115th Congress in February.

Like a fine wine, this bill has improved with age. The Arab American Institute calls the inclusion of religion necessary and “important because law enforcement agencies have a history of targeting Muslims.” In the Trump administration, we’ve seen that history repeating itself, as the phrase “Muslim ban” is widely heard in our media.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, will be introducing the companion bill, the End Racial Profiling Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives in March. The NAACP released a statement about the bill, saying: “We need this crucial legislation to stop this discriminatory, insidious, and too often painful or fatal practice and to help begin to restore the confidence of communities throughout the United States in federal, state and local law enforcement and thus restore the trust and integrity necessary to be effective.”

The EERPA has a wide reach. It would:

  • Prohibit profiling by federal, state, local, and Indian tribal law enforcement authorities.
  • Withhold federal law enforcement funds from local governments that do not create policies to end racial and religious profiling.
  • Mandate training for federal law enforcement officers on how to avoid profiling.
  • Require federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to collect data on all investigatory procedures, to ensure that no profiling was done.

It’s as ambitious as the current atmosphere surrounding racial and religious profiling is terrifying. As Sen. Cardin said, “Tragic events in Baltimore and New York, North Charleston and Ferguson, and elsewhere around the country have shown us that federal legislation finally ending discriminatory profiling at all levels of law enforcement is essential.”