Apr 26, 2012

Senator Durbin on NSEERS, DHS Oversight Hearing and Memo from the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security

Time: 149:10

Senator Durbin on NSEERS, DHS Oversight Hearing, April 25, 2012http://www.senate.gov/fplayers/jw57/commMP4Player.cfm?fn=judiciary042512&st=1320


Profiling, as in NYPD Muslim probe, does not improve security

Published: Friday, April 20, 2012, 8:26 AM Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 1:45 AM
By Star-Ledger Guest Columnist
Getty ImagesDespite the uproar by politicians, most New Jersey voters believe the NYPD was doing "what is necessary to combat terrorism" when officers documented the activity of Muslim residents in the Garden State, a new poll has found.
By Engy Abdelkader
In 2002, our federal government implemented the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which required males 17 and older to register with U.S. immigration authorities. The requirement applied only to natives of predominantly Muslim countries.
After reporting to registration, many of the men and boys never returned home. Rather, they were detained and deported, often without any notice to remaining family members in the United States, who were left wondering about their whereabouts.
In response, I organized a human rights monitoring campaign outside of the Immigration and Naturalization Service offices in Manhattan. About 90 Americans volunteered to work three-hour shifts beginning as early as 5 a.m. and ending as late as midnight.
Donning bright yellow shirts with the words "Human Rights Monitor," the volunteers tracked the compliant men who entered and exited the building. In the event someone did not leave, we contacted their family and provided legal and other resources.
One of the things that struck me about the volunteers is that they were, for the most part, not Muslim. In other words, they were not members of the very religious, racial and ethnic groups singled out by NSEERS, which has since been terminated.
As an American and Muslim, that resonated positively with me. And I have carried that experience forward. So I was disappointed to read recently that 70 percent of surveyed New Jerseyans approved of the New York City Police Department’s profiling of the American-Muslim, Arab-American and South Asian communities.
Over six months, the Associated Press has cataloged widespread warrantless surveillance of average, law-abiding American Muslims without any indication of criminal wrongdoing and in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.
The NYPD has monitored Muslims’ daily life in bookstores, cafes, bars and nightclubs; gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors hailing from particular countries and regions; photographed restaurants and grocery stores frequented by Muslims; built databases showing where Muslims shopped, got their hair cut and prayed; and used university records to identify and spy on students.
Studies dating to the 1990s have shown that police officers who engage in profiling were less likely to find contraband in searches of their targets than they were in their searches of whites.
In other words, profiling does not work.
In June 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a policy guidance regarding racial and ethnic profiling by federal law enforcement agencies stating: "Racial profiling in law enforcement is not merely wrong, but also ineffective. The DOJ orders federal agencies not to use race or ethnicity, alone or in conjunction with other factors, as an indicator of suspicion in routine law enforcement activities.
While law enforcement use of religious profiling became more visible after 9/11, the DOJ guidance remains woefully silent on the subject. Indeed, it should be amended to reflect that the effects of religious profiling are equally as pernicious and ineffective as its racial and ethnic twins.
Existing research highlights this best: Terrorists who claim to be inspired by religion are not likely to be found at mosques, nor do they exhibit signs of devout religiosity. Further, a highly respected social scientist’s review of 500 cases found evidence that "a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalization."
Since the DOJ guidance regulates only federal agencies, Congress should finally pass the End Racial Profiling Act, which prohibits law enforcement agencies from engaging in religious, ethnic and racial profiling.
We need to protect our homeland from those who would harm us, but we can only do that by using lawful policies and tactics that work and preserve who we strive to be. I hope New Jerseyans can see that, just as those 90 human rights volunteers did.
Engy Abdelkader is a legal fellow with the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank based in Washington.

Apr 18, 2012

Long Time Coming: Trayvon's Law

For the first time in a decade, Congress holds a hearing on anti-profiling legislation
By Jefferson Morley
Source: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/18/long_time_coming_trayvons_law/singleton/

The name of Trayvon Martin was invoked early and often at a Capitol Hill hearing on federal anti-profiling laws Tuesday as supporters hope the furor over the shooting of Florida teenage will prompt Congress take up a legislation that has languished since 2001.
“The senseless death of this innocent young man should be a wake up call,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a co-sponsor of legislation which would expand current federal law enforcement guidelines against profiling and mandate training on racial profiling at all federal law enforcement agencies.
“He was profiled, followed, chased, and murdered,” said Federica Wilson, the cowboy hat-wearing congresswoman from Miami where Trayvon lived with his father. “This case has captured international attention and will go down in history as a textbook example of racial profiling.”
More than 225 organizations submitted testimony for the hearing which included testimony by five Congressmen, civil liberties advocates, and two police officials. Five senators attended, including Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Most of the speakers favored the legislation, sponsored by Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, which would also forbid law enforcement officers from using race, ethnicity or religion as a factor in routine policing decisions.
The profiling issue exploded into national consciousness earlier this year with intense media coverage of the story of the boy who came home from a convenience store with a snack for his brother only be shot dead by a volunteer neighborhood security guard. Last week, Florida investigators concluded that George Zimmerman had “profiled” Martin as he passed through a residential neighborhood in Sanford, Florida on February 26, resulting in an altercation in which Zimmerman shot Martin. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.
The standing room-only crowd in the Dirksen Senate Office Building demonstrated how the social media campaign to demanding “Justice for Trayvon” had revived the profiling issue in Washington. The last time Congress held hearings on anti-profiling legislation was the summer of 2001, when revelations about the profiling practices of the New Jersey and Maryland state troopers had prompted a broad-based sentiment that using race and ethnicity to make traffic stops was fundamentally wrong and unfair. Profiling is “wrong and we will end it in America,” said President George W. Bush in Feb. 2001.
Then came September 11. Profiling gained legitimacy as a national security tool. The Bush administration explicitly used racial profiling to contact non-citizens from Muslim countries under a program the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) set up by Kris Kobach, then an attorney in the Bush Justice Department, now an immigration adviser to Mitt Romney. More than 82,000 people from 25 countries, (24 of them predominantly Muslim) were contacted, fingerprinted and interrogated. More than 12,000 were deported. The Bush Justice Department did issue a ban on racial profiling in 2003 but the DOJ guidelines allowed the use of religion and national origin as a law enforcement criteria.
After the failure of Bush and Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, profling Mexicans and Central Americans became more common. With the federal government unable to control the flow of people into the country, Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia passed laws requiring police to check status of anyone for whom there is a “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented. “There is no way to enforce the laws ‘show me your papers’ provisions without engaging in stereotypes based on race and ethnicity,” Anthony Romero of the ACLU, told the hearing
Yet as profiling has become entrenched in drug enforcement, counterterrorism, and immigration control, said criminologist David Harris, research shows it is an ineffective law enforcement tool. “In many contexts, in many types of police agencies, the results all fall in the same direction: when racial or ethnic profiling is used, police are less likely, not more likely, to catch bad guys,” Harris said.
Ron Davis, police chief in East Palo Alto, California, said his experience as as a cop on the streets confirmed that finding. Admitting that he himself had engaged in profiling, he called profiling “an ineffective tactic that wastes scares law enforcement resources and it harms our relations with communities whose cooperation we need. ”
Davis said passage of S. 1670 would help police nationwide.
“Without the legislation and updated Department of Justice guidance we will continue business as usual and only respond to this issue when it surfaces through high-profile tragedies such as Oscar Grant case in Oakland California and the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford Florida, ” he said.
But the remarks of Frank Gale, a 23 year veteran of the Denver police force and the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, illustrated one of the biggest obstacles facing supporters of a profiling ban: police unions.
Calling the bill “highly offensive,” Gale voiced the FOP’s “strong opposition” to S. 1670. The measure, he said, “provides a ‘solution’ to a problem that doe not exist, unless one believes that the problem to be solved is that our nation’s law enforcement officers are racist.”
“We can and must restore the bonds of trust between law enforcement and minorities,” Gale said but argued a profiling ban would only generate more mistrust “because it is written with the presumption that racist tactics are common tool of our nation’s police departments.”
The clashing views of Davis and Gale, two veteran African-American cops, “reflects the complexity of the issue,” Davis told me. For Davis, the profiling ban is simply the implementation of best practices while for Gale it is the institutionalization of second-guessing officers on the street who have to make difficult and dangerous decisions. “We don’t have to be afraid of being held accountable,” Davis said.
Yet the Obama administration seems reluctant to act. Two years ago Attorney General Eric Holder told profiling critics he would review the 2003 DOJ guidelines, and reconsider the use of religion and national origin in national security and immigration enforcement. Holder has yet to act.
Republican support for legislation supported by Muslim-Americans and opposed by police unions seems unlikely, especially in an election year. Lindsey Graham, the only Republican in attendance, voiced general support for the bill while expressing the belief that profiling Muslims might still be necessary in national security investigations. He said he hoped for “something more bipartisan.” (Cardin’s bill currently has 12 co-sponsors, all Democrats. A companion House bill has 52 co-sponsors, all Democrats.)
A true end to profiling will require cultural, as well as political, change. The resonance of the Trayvon Martin story is a sign of cultural change that enhances the legislation’s prospects. But these things can take a long time in Washington. The murders of Matthew Shepard, a gay teenager in Wyoming, and James Byrd, a black man in Texas, in 1998 galvanized a movement to establish a federal hate crime law. But the Sheppard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act wasn’t enacted until President Obama signed it in 2009.
The time may come for Trayvon’s Law but it probably won’t be this year.

Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington and author of the forthcoming book, Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday).More Jefferson Morley

Webcast: “Ending Racial Profiling in America” Senate Judiciary CommitteeSubcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=cbe9d491fb674660dfb1774bdef05358