Civil rights and civil liberties group, take a swig of champagne. According to a law enforcement official, the U.S. Justice Department is planning to expand restrictions on federal agents. The new restrictions will ban officials from using not only racial profiling, but also from profiling based on national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Key word here: Federal agents. The proposed changes will, sadly, not apply to local law enforcement groups (meaning the NYPD can continue profiling Muslim groups).
That being said, if further restrictions on profiling are implemented at the federal level, they can certainly have an impact on the local level. Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly sat down yesterday Jan. 15 with Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York — who has been very vocal about his opposition to stop-and-frisk — to discuss the imminent restrictions on profiling.
Surprisingly, former President George W. Bush implemented a ban on racial profiling in 2003— though he exempted national security cases from the rule. That gave officials working those cases the potential free reign to discriminate based on race. Even worse, that profiling ban didn't extend to other factors such as ancestry or national origin.
The Justice Department's proposed changes to the profiling ban are still a little unclear — they may or may not continue to exempt national security cases from any sort of profiling, which some say might defeat the purpose of the restrictions. "Adding religion and national origin is huge,” Linda Sarsour, advocacy director for the National Network for Arab American Communities, told the New York Times. “But if they don’t close the national security loophole, then it’s really irrelevant.”
The announcement comes just a few days after Holder also announced that black and Latino students were more likely to face school suspension, and that it was the Justice Department's responsibility to help phase out these discriminatory practices. Throughout his time as attorney general, Holder and the Justice Department have taken several steps to combat discrimination, including alleged racial discrimination in voting laws. Still, despite mounting pressure from civil liberties groups and Congress, it has taken the Justice Department until now to make a move on federal profiling laws.