US Senate Judiciary Committee to look at racial profiling

File: This Oct. 26, 2011 photo shows the U.S. flag flying at the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
File: This Oct. 26, 2011 photo shows the U.S. flag flying at the Capitol building in Washington, DC.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

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In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on racial profiling Tuesday. Among the groups submitting testimony is Los Angeles's Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

AACAJ Statement Racial Profiling Senate Hearing 4.2012 1

This will be the Senate’s first hearing on racial profiling in more than a decade, the first since the attacks of September 11, 2001. It will focus on how the practice harms law enforcement efforts in communities of color.

Three specific examples of racial profiling will be addressed at the hearing: strict state immigration laws that target Latinos and the undocumented, such as those in Arizona and Alabama; profiling of African-Americans by law enforcement; and anti-terrorism efforts that affect Muslims throughout the U.S.

But the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of L.A. will also submit testimony, citing a long history of racial and religious profiling of Southern California’s Asian communities.

“Unfortunately, there’s a long history of racial profiling by law enforcement," said APALC Policy Director Betty Hung, "ranging from the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, to the collection of so-called Asian gang members by law enforcement in Orange County, to the ongoing discrimination and surveillance and targeting of South Asians and Muslims Americans post-9/11.”

The hearing also will examine the End Racial Profiling Act, which was introduced last year. If passed, this law would make data collection and sensitivity training on racial profiling mandatory for local, state and federal law enforcement.

“The End Racial Profiling Act," said Hung, "takes an important step to say that policing by racial profiling makes us less safe, wastes resources, erodes trust in communities and, at the end of the day, racial profiling is a practice, and policy, that needs to end.”

President Barack Obama spoke to the Univision network last Friday about racial profiling. He said issues of race are deeply embedded in the history of the U.S. They have to do with attitudes, he said, not just laws.