By Quaila Hugh, a Summer 2014 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
Last week, leaders from the Quad Caucus – comprised of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional Progressive Caucus – stood with civil rights advocates and victims of profiling at a press conference to discuss the impact of profiling, to call on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to revise the 2003 Department of Justice Guidance, and to launch the #MoreThanAProfile campaign.
The guidance – issued in 2003 and still unrevised – is in dire need of revisions to ensure the protection of civil rights. Specifically, civil rights groups want the guidance to prohibit profiling based on religion and national origin, eliminate loopholes that currently allow for profiling in the name of border and national security, prohibit profiling in the context of law enforcement surveillance activities, apply to state and local law enforcement agencies working in partnership with federal agencies or receiving federal funding, and include enforceable accountability mechanisms.
Leaders from the Quad Caucus expressed the same urgent message to Holder last week: the current guidelines need to be revised to protect all persons in the United States.
The often silenced voices of profiling victims were heard, too. Individuals shared compelling stories about how debilitating an illegitimate encounter with law enforcement can be.
- Bonita Rhodes Berg, an African-American mother, was stopped in a Minneapolis airport on her trip home from visiting her son. After holding the elevator for the undercover officers who later stopped her, the officers examined her “heavy” carry-on only to find her “Bible, devotional book, toiletries…. But no drugs and no money.”
- Gurwinder Singh, a Sikh American student, was profiled by Capitol Hill officers in front of Congress. On the Hill to provide testimony on school bullying, he was stopped and grilled with questions, and released only when others came to verify his account.
- Daniel Trejo, a gay Latino, shared how he was not only profiled but also identified as a target to law enforcement. After calling the police for a medical emergency, he and his friends were treated as objects, referred to as “it,” and one transgender friend was solicited for sexual favors.
The time to end profiling is now. The #MoreThanAProfile campaign directly asks Holder to change the guidance to help eliminate profiling. You can participate in the campaign, too! Post a message on social media sharing a personal story or message of support to end all forms of discriminatory profiling. Be sure to include #MoreThanAProfile.
View a recording of last week’s the press conference below.