Racial profiling of minorities persists in U.S.: ACLU
ATLANTA (Reuters) - U.S. authorities detain thousands of people each year solely on the basis of religion, race or nationality despite efforts by senior law enforcement officials and the government to stop it, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
An ACLU report said racial profiling was often applied to immigrants from South Asia and to North Africans suspected of being Islamic militants following the September 11, 2001, attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda militants.
The report, submitted on Tuesday to the U.N. Committee to End Racial Discrimination, said profiling could involve harassment, detention, arrest or investigation.
Many Latin American immigrants were also targeted for immigration violations while others, including black Americans, were profiled as suspected drug offenders, said the report, which did not provide precise figures.
President Barack Obama's government upholds the policy of the previous Bush administration that such profiling should end, but related laws contain a significant gray area, said Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU's human rights program.
According to 2003 federal guidelines, it is illegal to detain or investigate someone solely on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, but there are exceptions in the context of national security and border control.
"While there is a political consensus regarding the problem and a need for a solution it has not translated into concrete action," Bhatnagar said. He referred to the End Racial Profiling Bill first introduced in 1997, but which had not yet been passed into law.
One factor that had increased the profiling of Latin Americans was a federal program to shift responsibility and resources for immigration enforcement to local and state authorities, according to the report.
Anecdotal evidence suggested that an increasing number of people had been targeted under profiling for possible immigration offenses over the past eight years, it said.
"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 report said.
The involvement of local police in this was having a "devastating impact" on some communities, Bhatnagar said.
(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Storey)
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