Expanding a limited 2003 ban, the Justice Department will soon prohibit federal agents from profiling suspects based on national origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The Bush administration's ban applied only to race, allowing federal agents to specifically target Muslims in terrorism cases and Latinos for immigration investigations.
President George W. Bush said in 2001 that racial profiling was wrong and promised "to end it in America." But that was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. After those attacks, federal agents arrested and detained dozens of Muslim men who had no ties to terrorism. The government also began a program known as special registration, which required tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim men to register with the authorities because of their nationalities.
"Putting an end to this practice not only comports with the Constitution, it would put real teeth to the F.BI.'s claims that it wants better relationships with religious minorities," Hina Shamsi, a national security lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Times.
But a critical part of the ban's expansion is still unknown. As it stands now, the prohibitions on racial profiling do not apply to cases involving national security, which has been an obvious cause for concern for Arab and Muslim rights groups. The rule also applies only to traffic stops and arrests, not surveillance.
"Adding religion and national origin is huge," Linda Sarsour, advocacy director for the National Network for Arab American Communities, told Times. "But if they don't close the national security loophole, then it's really irrelevant."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed the changes to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday night, according to government official who spoke with the Times.