From left, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., appear as witnesses at a Senate Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Subcommittee hearing in Dirksen entitled ‘Ending Racial Profiling in America.’ (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Several members of Congress and civil rights leaders presented at the Senate hearing on racial profiling Tuesday to discuss how blacks, Latinos and Muslims have been unfairly targeted in their states. The hearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee is the first in the Senate on the topic since before 9/11.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., was on the first panel of witnesses and said Alabama’s immigration law is promoting racial profiling by law enforcement because it allows them to target anyone they suspect of being in the country without legal status.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their jobs honorably and courageously, putting their lives at risk to protect the communities they serve,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “But the inappropriate actions of the few who engage in racial profiling create mistrust and suspicion that hurt all police officers.”
Data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for the year 2005 black drivers (4.5 percent) were twice as likely as white drivers (2.1 percent) to be arrested during a traffic stop, while hispanic drivers (65 percent) were more likely than White (56.2 percent) or Black (55.8 percent) drivers to receive a ticket.
“Every year, thousands of people are stopped while driving, flying, or even walking simply because of their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration or citizenship status, or religion,” Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU wrote in a statement submitted to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “They are not stopped because they have committed a crime, but because law enforcement authorities wrongly assume that they are more likely to be involved in criminal activity because of their physical appearance.”