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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/7/09


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U.S. authorities detain thousands of people each year solely
on the basis of religion, race or nationality, the American Civil Liberties Union charges in a new report to the United Nations.

The report says racial profiling is often applied to immigrants from South Asia and to North Africans suspected of being Islamic militants following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Submitted to the U.N. Committee to End Racial Discrimination, the report said profiling could involve harassment, detention, arrest or investigation.

Many Latin American immigrants are also targeted for immigration violations while others, including African Americans, are profiled as suspected drug offenders, the report said.

Chandra Bhatnagar, staff attorney with the ACLU's human rights program, told us, "Racial profiling was widespread and pervasive during the George W. Bush Administration and it continues to be the reality today. The Obama Administration must finally put an end to this undemocratic and counterproductive practice by supporting the legislation currently making its way through Congress."

He was referring to the End Racial Profiling Bill first introduced in 1997, but which has not yet been passed into law.

Civil libertarians place much of the responsibility for continued use of racial profiling to the practices of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and particularly to a DHS unit known as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE, a law enforcement organization and the largest investigative arm of the DHS, is responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws.

Months ago, DHS's new leader, Secretary Janet Napolitano, promised a thorough review of the agency's policies and practices. But the ACLU's Bhatnagar agrees with other civil liberties advocates that no results of that review have been made public.

These advocates are particularly critical of a number of DHS programs designed to increase the participation of state and local police in enforcing federal laws.

"Police officers who are often not adequately trained, and in some cases not trained at all, in federal immigration enforcement, will improperly rely on race or ethnicity as a proxy for undocumented status," the ACLU report said.

The involvement of local police in this was having a "devastating impact" on some communities, Bhatnagar told us.

The ACLU says it has received complaints from across the country of U.S. citizens of Latin appearance being illegally stopped, detained, arrested and even deported by local law enforcement functioning as immigration agents.

Another contentious issue is ICE's detention policies and practices, which have resulted in significant increases in immigrants being held in jails run by ICE, city and county jails, and private prison facilities.

The Los Angeles detention center has been a particular target of criticism. Civil rights groups are suing ICE in federal district court for detaining immigrants in egregious and unsanitary conditions in that facility.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Southern California, the National Immigration Law Center, and a private law firm, also charges that the unsanitary conditions have led ICE to deprive immigrants of due-process rights such as access to mail or attorneys while in detention.

The Los Angeles facility, known as "B-18," is allowed to temporarily house detainees for no more than 12 hours. But in what the ACLU calls "a perverse distortion of its original purpose," it says immigration officials have kept detainees for weeks by shuttling them to local jails in the evenings and on weekends, and returning them to the facility on the next business day, the lawsuit said.

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WILLIAM FISHER Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)
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