Members of Congress call for an end to profiling by law enforcement

Leaders of several congressional caucuses joined on Wednesday to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to revise the Department of Justice’s profiling guidance and close current loopholes…

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., speaks about racial profiling on Wednesday in front of the U.S. Capitol. He is joined by, from left, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Re. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas). (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Leaders of several congressional caucuses joined on Wednesday to call on Attorney General Eric Holder to revise the Department of Justice’s profiling guidance and close current loopholes that they said permit law enforcement agencies to unlawful profile certain individuals.

“We have one clear call: We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to ensure that all Americans are protected from unconstitutional profiling,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Wednesday at a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol. “We expect the attorney general to fix this problem by issuing improved guidelines on profiling that eliminates all loopholes.”

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Joining Ellison were leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Together, they urged Holder to make improvements to the DOJ’s guidance on the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies.

The guidance was first issued in 2003. It sought to ban racial profiling in the United States. However, the guidance contained exceptions for border and national security. It also failed to include rules prohibiting law enforcement agents from profiling a person based on religion and national origin.

In 2009, Holder vowed to review the profiling guidance and make revisions if needed. The New York Times reported last month that Holder is still revising the guidance but that he has come up with a draft of some of the changes he would like to make.

On Wednesday, caucus leaders urged Holder to revise the profiling guidance to prohibit law enforcement agents from profiling a person based on religion and national origin. They also called for the prohibition on profiling to extend to border and national security investigations.

‘There is no place for profiling’

Furthermore, they highlighted how profiling by federal law enforcement affects racial, religious and ethnic minorities across the country. Several Latino, African-American and Sikh-American victims of profiling were also on hand to share how they’ve been personally discriminated by law enforcement agencies.

“There is no place for profiling of any sort in our country, whether that is profiling based on race, national origin or religion,” said Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “We must ensure that all individuals in the United States are treated equally under the law.”

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Hinojosa added that Latinos have been victims of discrimination by federal law enforcement agents based on the color of their skin and their appearance. He also said Latinos have been targeted by law enforcement agents who mistakenly believed they were undocumented. “But how can the legal status of an individual be determined by the way he or she looks?” he asked.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said that profiling by law enforcement agents creates a culture of fear and weakens the relationship between law enforcement and communities

“If you found out that the institutions that are supposed to protect you are treating you like the enemy, would you trust them?” Chu said. “Of course not.”

She added the DOJ’s current profiling guidance contains loopholes that make it “commonplace” to profile Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs and South Asian Americans. “They must be updated to reflect a 21st century America and our fundamental values as a nation,” she said, referring to the profiling guidance.

Also attending Wednesday’s press conference were Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), authors of the End Racial Profiling Act. They joined in calling for the passage of their legislation, which would prohibit law enforcement agencies from engaging in racial profiling.

“Racial profiling is un-American,” Cardin said. “It has no place within the values of our country. It should have no place in law enforcement. It wastes valuable resources. It turns communities against the partnerships needed to keep our communities safe. It can harm people. It has to end.”

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