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WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties will hear testimony today from civil rights groups, legal scholars and law enforcement officials at a hearing on racial profiling that will examine law enforcement's use of race, ethnicity, national origin and religion to determine guilt. The hearing, titled "Racial Profiling and the Use of Suspect Classifications in Law Enforcement Policy," will also set the stage for the upcoming reintroduction of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) by both the House and the Senate.
"Racial profiling is not only an unfair and un-American policing tactic, it also erodes community trust and is an ineffective waste of law enforcement resources," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office."Using race, ethnicity, national origin or religion to single out people for police scrutiny does nothing to make us safer, but does a great deal to deepen racial divides in America. Racial profiling is wrong, unconstitutional and sends the unacceptable message that some citizens do not deserve equal protection under the law."
One of the hearing's witnesses, Salt Lake City Chief of Police Chris Burbank, is expected to testify on the law recently passed in the neighboring state of Arizona requiring police to demand "papers" from people they stop who they suspect are not authorized to be in the U.S. Law enforcement groups, including Arizona's state police chief's association, oppose the discriminatory law because it undermines public safety by diverting scarce security resources toward false threats and eroding trust between law enforcement and Latinos.
Last month, the ACLU and other leading civil rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona law in a federal court in Phoenix. The extreme law, the groups charge, invites racial profiling because law enforcement will inevitably rely on their own bias to determine who they suspect is in the U.S. unlawfully and force anyone who looks or sounds "foreign" to confirm their identity and citizenship.
ERPA was introduced in the House and Senate in 2001, 2004 and 2005, failing each year to receive a vote. If enacted, ERPA would prohibit any local, state or federal law enforcement agency or officer from engaging in racial profiling. It would make engaging in efforts to eliminate racial profiling a condition for law enforcement agencies to receive federal money. ERPA would institute a meaningful enforcement mechanism to ensure that anti-profiling policies are being followed.
"Despite condemnation of racial profiling by leaders from across the political spectrum, including the president and attorney general, attempts to pass a comprehensive federal ban have not moved forward," said Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "Racial profiling has undermined the respect and trust between law enforcement and communities of color, which is essential to successful police work. Race, ethnicity and religion are not and should not be grounds for criminal suspicion. Congress should move quickly to reintroduce and pass the End Racial Profiling Act."
Following an ACLU and Rights Working Group report submitted last year to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the committee sent a letter urging Congress and the Obama administration to "make all efforts to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA)" and to review the 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, "with a view to avoiding any ambiguous language that may provide a loophole allowing for actions to constitute racial profiling."
The report can be found here: www.aclu.org/human-rights_racial-justice/persistence-racial-and-ethnic-profiling-united-states
The CERDletter to the U.S. Government is available here: www.aclu.org/human-rights_racial-justice/un-committee-elimination-racial-discrimination-response-us-government-pr
More information about the ACLU's lawsuit challenging the Arizona law can be found at: www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights-racial-justice/aclu-and-civil-rights-groups-file-legal-challenge-arizona-racial-pr