Senator Ben Cardin, Rep. John Conyers and Rights Advocates Call on Obama and Congress to Support End Racial Profiling Act

Cardin and Advocates Release Reclaiming Our Rights: Reflections on Racial Profiling in a Post-9/11 America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Keith Rushing, Rights Working Group, 202.591.3305, 202.557.4291
krushing@rightsworkinggroup.org

September 14, 2011, Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, of Maryland, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, of Michigan, sponsors of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), joined civil liberties, civil rights and human rights advocates to call on Congress and the Obama Administration to support passage of a bill that would prohibit local, state and federal law enforcement from engaging in profiling on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or national origin. The bill is to be introduced this fall.

Cardin and Conyers were joined by Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Office and Margaret Huang, executive director of Rights Working Group (RWG). All were among the contributors to RWG’s new report Reclaiming Our Rights: Reflections on Racial Profiling in a Post-9/11 Americawhich was also released at the press conference, held this morning at the Capitol Visitor Center.

The report shares perspectives on the expansion of racial profiling in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and how the federal government’s increased powers of surveillance, detention and access to private information impacted people of Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian descent along with migrants and people thought to be migrants. The report also discusses how the issue of racial profiling--a longtime problem in black, Native American and Latino communities--became more controversial after the Sept. 11 attacks and how the broad congressional support for passing the ERPA in the summer of 2001 subsequently diminished. In the report, RWG makes recommendations to the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Congress--among them is passage of ERPA—that would seek to not only prohibit racial profiling but provide greater oversight of law enforcement with regard to civil rights protections.

In preparation for the observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the authors were invited by Rights Working Group because of their work to end racial profiling and restore and expand civil liberties and civil rights that have eroded since 9/11.

Margaret Huang, the executive director of Rights Working Group said: “The violation of civil rights and civil liberties caused by racial profiling remains a serious problem for many communities of color. After Sept. 11, we saw an expansion of profiling in the context of national security at our airports and border entry points. And in the immigration context, the use of local and state police to enforce federal immigration law has unfairly targeted certain communities of migrants for scrutiny and harassment.” 

“When racial profiling happens we all become less safe because the trust between police and communities is eroded and communities fear calling the police for help,” Huang said. “It is now time to reassert our nation’s commitment to civil rights and civil liberties and we urge President Obama, who supported ERPA when he was in the Senate, to now work with Congress to pass this important bill.”

 “We need to ensure that the government lives up to its obligation to provide true equality under law,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While on the campaign trail, President Obama promised us he would institute a ban on racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and work with state and local governments to do the same. We look forward to continuing to work with his administration to fulfill this goal.”

In addition to urging passage of the End Racial Profiling Act and the release of ”Reclaiming Our Rights,” Breakthrough TV and Rights Working Group released “Checkpoint Nation? Building Community Across Borders” last week, a documentary about racial profiling, multiracial solidarity and immigration enforcement at the border. Rights Working Group has also started a petition to President Obama demanding action on racial profiling.

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Formed in the aftermath of 9/11, Rights Working Group is a coalition of more than 300 community-based, grassroots and national organizations working to restore civil liberties and human rights protections for all people living in the U.S.