Press Release

September 14, 2011

U.S. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland announced Wednesday he is introducing legislation to stop racial profiling by law enforcement officials.

“Racial profiling is against the values of America,” Cardin said.

While most law enforcement officials do not engage in the practice, Cardin said the federal government needs to do a better job of protecting the rights of people. He said security is primary in the fight against terrorism, but added, “We do want to have a more focused way of dealing with our security but not by profiling, not by racial profiling. We want a profile based on good information.”

Back in June 2001, the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) had support from Democrats and Republicans and looked like it was going to pass. That support fell apart in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

A decade later, lawmakers and civil rights groups have a renewed push to pass this important legislation. Senator Cardin expects to reintroduce ERPA in the Senate later this fall. Rep. John Conyers also plans to introduce the House version.

Since its creation, the Transportation Security Agency has continually said it does not engage in any “racial profiling.” Recently, the TSA began having agents engage passengers in conversation to gauge responses as possible warning signs.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said TSA is moving away from a “one size fits all” screenings, to what she called a “risk based strategy.”

“There will always be some unpredictability built into the system, and there will always be random checks, even for groups that we are looking at differently, such as children under the age of 12,” Napolitano told a Senate committee Tuesday.

Senator Cardin says his legislation is aimed at law enforcement officials nationwide, including local and state police departments. Cardin says the proposed law would also help departments who are facing tight budgets, because the more resources that are spent investigating individuals solely because of their race or religion, the fewer resources are being directed at suspects actually demonstrating illegal behavior.