A project of the Center for Community Change

Detroit City Council bans racial profiling

Thank you Detroit City Council.2007-05-12

This week the Detroit City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that bans the profiling of residents by police or officials based on race, ethnicity, physical appearance, dress or immigration status.

Detroit police and other city employees can no longer ask people about their immigration status unless it is specifically relevant to a crime or a federal investigation of terrorism. We commend the Council on this.

The ordinance, introduced by Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. after talks with Latino, Arab and Muslim groups, allows immigrants to call the police or request services without fear of being detained or deported.

It also allows people to breathe easy, without fear of being unfairly stopped, when they drive in the city wearing a skull cap, hijab, or having dark skin.

The group Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), based in Detroit, which brings together religious congregations for activism and empowerment, lead the push for the law to be passed.

Last week MOSES gathered 130 people at a Council hearing to ask council members to support the proposal.

Other cities like Chicago and Los Angeles have passed similar ordinances in the past.

Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings has said that people should always feel comfortable to contact police when a crime is committed and that police should not have to enforce federal immigration laws.

The passing of the ordinance was a culmination of efforts by different minority groups to cooperate and empower each other to achieve this goal.

The only disappointing aspect of this victory is that not enough Arab Americans were involved. The 130 people who swarmed the Council last Friday should have been 300, with half of them Arab Americans, even if the issue wasn’t as relevant as it is to Arabs and Muslims. We should all be fighting for each other’s causes.

At a MOSES-organized interfaith event last week, Rev. Charles Williams of the Mary Church Terrell Council, compared Detroit’s minority groups to “crabs in a barrel,” and said that we all need to “link up and climb out.”

This ordinance brings everyone a little closer to the top of that barrel.

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