Discriminatory Profiling

The ACLU works in courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.

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What's at Stake

Federal, state, and local authorities are engaging in discriminatory profiling on a broad scale in the name of national security. Federal agencies conduct suspicionless searches and arbitrary detentions of Arabs and Muslims; subject racial, religious, and other minorities to additional screening at airports and border crossings; and “map” minority communities around the country based on crude stereotypes. State and local governments conduct discriminatory surveillance of innocent American Muslims and facilitate the collection of reports on activities that are deemed “suspicious” but are in fact innocent and protected by the First Amendment.

These practices are constitutionally suspect and stigmatize entire communities instead of focusing on individualized evidence of criminal activity. Using race, the color of someone’s skin, religion, or ethnicity as a basis for suspicion or investigation is unconstitutional and unfair. It harms our national security by wasting scarce government resources and eroding minority communities’ trust in government. It is a practice that should be left in the history books, where it belongs.

The ACLU has taken a multi-faceted approach to challenging discriminatory policies, including litigation on behalf of the victims of discriminatory and unlawful surveillance and suspicious activity reporting as well as raising awareness of the corrosive effect of discriminatory profiling on affected communities. Also, the ACLU has long advocated for changes to the federal government’s guidance on the use of race, religion, ethnicity, and other classifications by federal law enforcement agencies; its guidance allows these offensive practices and the targeting of minority communities for recruitment and use of informants.

Federal, state, and local authorities are engaging in discriminatory profiling on a broad scale in the name of national security. Federal agencies conduct suspicionless searches and arbitrary detentions of Arabs and Muslims; subject racial, religious, and other minorities to additional screening at airports and border crossings; and “map” minority communities around the country based on crude stereotypes. State and local governments conduct discriminatory surveillance of innocent American Muslims and facilitate the collection of reports on activities that are deemed “suspicious” but are in fact innocent and protected by the First Amendment.

These practices are constitutionally suspect and stigmatize entire communities instead of focusing on individualized evidence of criminal activity. Using race, the color of someone’s skin, religion, or ethnicity as a basis for suspicion or investigation is unconstitutional and unfair. It harms our national security by wasting scarce government resources and eroding minority communities’ trust in government. It is a practice that should be left in the history books, where it belongs.

The ACLU has taken a multi-faceted approach to challenging discriminatory policies, including litigation on behalf of the victims of discriminatory and unlawful surveillance and suspicious activity reporting as well as raising awareness of the corrosive effect of discriminatory profiling on affected communities. Also, the ACLU has long advocated for changes to the federal government’s guidance on the use of race, religion, ethnicity, and other classifications by federal law enforcement agencies; its guidance allows these offensive practices and the targeting of minority communities for recruitment and use of informants.

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Credit: Michelle Frankfurter, Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photos
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