Last week, Pax Christi USA was invited by Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) to submit testimony for a hearing on “Ending Racial Profiling in America” for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights. The hearing took place on Tuesday, April 17. The hearing was called to explore the different faces of racial profiling, including discriminatory law enforcement against African Americans, state immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona that subject Hispanic Americans to heightened scrutiny, and anti-terrorism efforts that target American Muslims. The hearing also examined proposed solutions to racial profiling, including the End Racial Profiling Act, closing loopholes in the U.S. Department of Justice’s racial profiling guidance, and the Justice Department Civil Rights Division’s enforcement of federal civil rights laws to prevent profiling by state and local law enforcement agencies. Pax Christi USA submitted the following testimony.
Pax Christi USA’s mission to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence. Pax Christi USA is committed to establishing strong, honest, caring relationships—both personal and institutional—across racial lines in order that together, with the whole Body of Christ, we can transform structures and cultures of violence and domination.
As U.S. Catholics, the right to be judged by the content of one’s character rather than the color of one’s skin is a sacrosanct value, and essential to the virtues of freedom and liberty which stand at the heart of our national and religious traditions. Actions which threaten to undermine this value, like racial profiling, cannot be accepted or tolerated if we are to be true to who it is that we say we are as a nation.
Racial profiling is a symptom of the persistent and destructive systemic racism that perpetuates violation of rights and violence against humanity. We believe it to be a manifestation of a deep spiritual and social brokenness which must be named and transformed.
Catholicism in the United States reflects the diversity of our nation. Many individuals within our Catholic communities of color have experienced racial profiling firsthand. We have brothers and sisters who have been victimized by a law enforcement tactic based on connecting individuals to crimes based on certain characteristics which are unrelated to criminal conduct.
Whether it has been the experience of Mexicans, Guatemalans, Dominicans or Haitians being racially profiled by immigration officials, or African Americans being racially profiled by local law enforcement, or Arabs, Sikhs and South Asians experiencing racial profiling by personnel charged with “homeland security,” the practice is widespread and endemic to many communities. And we must put an end to it.
In our organizational newsletter of June-July 2009, we published a report by our partner organization SAALT, South Asian Americans Leading Together, which documented specific incidences of racial and religious profiling since 9/11 within the South Asian community. The report includes incidents like these:
- Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asians being singled out for extensive searches when boarding a plane
- FBI background check delays for immigration applications
- Certain male nationals from predominantly Muslim and Arab countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, were required to register with the Department of Justice through a program known as “special registration” in the wake of 9/11. (As a result of this initiative, nearly 14,000 men were placed in detention and deportation proceedings, primarily for minor immigration violations.)
- Georgia law enforcement, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, ran “Operation Meth Merchant,” targeting South Asian convenience storeowners accused of selling everyday ingredients that could be used to make the drug methamphetamine
Such tactics are not new—they have long been practiced by law enforcement and others in authority against African American, Latino/a, Native American, and other communities of color. Pax Christi USA, rooted in the teachings of the Gospels, calls upon members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, as well as law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to once and for all end the policies and practices that have the intent or impact of racial profiling.
Additionally, this week, Pax Christi USA signed onto letters sent to members of the House and Senate asking them to co-sponsor the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011.