Modest Racial Profiling Protections In Senate Immigration Bill

The Senate immigration bill includes small but important checks on racial profiling by immigration agents.

By Seth Freed Wessler Apr 18, 2013

***[For updates as we work through the bill’s details, follow our What’s in the Bill tag.](*** As I noted this morning, the Senate Gang of Eight immigration reform bill invests in a vast expansion of border security including lots of new equipment, drones included, and at least 3,500 more border patrol agents who will join the 21,500 already there. One of the concerns about this growing enforcement network is that it’ll deepen an already out of control and reckless border patrol (for a sense of the scope of this messiness, check out[ Andrew Becker’s border reporting for the Center for Investigative Reporting]( One of the biggest problems that rights groups have with CBP is the widespread use of racial profiling as a tool of border enforcement. The immigration bill includes several provisions to reign in these practices. The bill reads: "In making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as ordinary traffic stops, Federal law enforcement officers may not use race or ethnicity to any degree, except that officers may rely on race and ethnicity if a specific suspect description exists." The provision notably excludes national origin, which leaves plenty of room for immigration agents to target immigrants because of characteristics that might suggest a particular country of origin but ultimately are really about race. The bill would also require the Department of Homeland Security to begin collecting and compiling data on the race and ethnicity of people stopped by immigration agents. Though the data collection does not lead directly to greater oversight, it may provide transparency needed for advocates and oversight bodies to push for changes in practice.