The federal government’s new racial profiling guidelines expand the Bush Administration’s 2003 ban on routine racial profiling by some federal authorities, to include religion, national origin and other characteristics.
The guidelines apply to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). However, the guidelines continue the deliberate exclusion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which may consider all those factors in its border checks and airport passenger screenings.
Though federal agencies may not use these categories for profiling, they may still collect data. For example, the FBI will still be able to use “mapping,” a process in which it collects religious, racial, ethnic and national origin information about neighborhoods. The FBI uses mapping to identify specific threats and potential victims: they identified Arab-American and Muslim communities in Michigan as possible areas for terrorist recruitment; they pointed out a rise in the African-American population of Georgia when investigating “Black Separatist” groups; they delineated Chinese and Russian communities in San Francisco when searching for organized crime; and they indicated that Latino communities could contain the Central American MS-13 Gang. Civil Rights activists criticized the FBI’s use of mapping but the government maintains that the practice is proper and smart, provided the mapping is not solely based on categories such as race, ethnicity and religion.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hailed the expansion of the guidelines to include the additional categories but believes the guidelines still fall short in that the DHS is still allowed to use race, religion, national origin and other characteristics. According to the ACLU, DHS application of those categories will disproportionately affect Latinos and religious minorities: “Focusing on an entire class of people instead of on actual conduct is unfair and harms our national security by wasting scarce government resources and eroding minority communities’ trust in government.”
The guidelines’ expansion comes on the heels of racially sensitive incidents such as the Ferguson, MO shooting and the NYC death of a black male by a policeman’s chokehold. However, the guidelines apply only to federal agencies and have no binding effect on state or local authorities, who have daily contact with community members.
By Kathy Catanzarite
[Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither HandelontheLaw.com, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.