A new report published by Amnesty International USA on Monday found racial profiling by US law enforcement agencies had grown over the past three years to cover one in nine Americans.
According to Amnesty, people of Middle Eastern or south Asian descent and those of the Muslim and Sikh faiths are most at risk, especially since the 11 September attacks.
The study reports 32 million Americans have been subjected to profiling, defined as the targeting of people because of their ethnic or religious background.
Amnesty wants the US Congress as well as state and local governments to enact comprehensive legislation, banning the practice.
Amnesty’s 50-page report documents cases of people pulled over by police and treated as suspects, solely based on their looks.
Richard Reid did not fit the racial
One example of racial profiling given by Amnesty focuses on an eight-year-old Muslim boy from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
He was reportedly separated from his family while airport security officials searched him and dismantled his toy car.
He is now routinely stopped and searched at airports.
Another reported incident showed that 1200 people of Middle-Eastern descent were rounded up in a sweep for suspects immediately after the attacks of 11 September 2001.
Many were detained, and in June 2003 a report by the Office of the Inspector General found significant problems in the way the detainees were treated.
These included: untimely access to the phone, to legal counsel, to family; prolonged detention based on unclear and under-funded FBI clearance policy; and physical and verbal abuse by prison officials.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington based civil right’s and amnesty group, told Aljazeera.net: “The Amnesty report is in line with what we are seeing at CAIR.
“We have had reports of many incidents where racial profiling has been used to target Muslims. A common one is Muslims being detained for videotaping tourist sites. It is a growing problem.
“I don’t know what the solution is or how racial profiling will end. Unfortunately we are held hostage to international events. When world events happen Muslims in America are affected,” he added.
Ashcroft: Using race as a proxy
Amnesty want the US law enforcement agency to enforce a law banning the act.
Amnesty told Aljazeera.net: “We understand that racial profiling is not going to be eliminated over night.
“We have made extensive national and state level recommendations in our report. For example governments should take on the responsibility to collect data on incidents, especially related to government employees such as police officers and prison wardens. At the moment this is not being done.”
Bush “has failed to support any federal legislative effort” to eliminate racial profiling in the country, Amnesty said.
The US president vowed to end racial profiling in US law enforcement in February 2001, but the ban is still a policy, not a law and has no enforcement, according to the report.