Institutionalized Racial Profiling: U.S. Border Screening Under Fire
Today the Washington Post reports on calls for a change in the border screening tactics used by the U.S. government. With personal, political and religious questions as an institutionalized part of these screenings, it is not suprising that the government's "Terrorism Watch List" has topped 1,000,000 people. Yes, you read those zeroes correctly - our government currently has one million people flagged as potential terrorists.
Over the years, watch-list mismatches have entangled countless individuals whose names are similar to those on the government's master database of terrorism suspects, which includes more than 1 million names and aliases used by 400,000 people.
Questions that are often included in these screenings are:
“What is your religion?” “What mosque do you attend?” “How often do you pray?” “What do you think of the war in Iraq?” “What charities do you contribute to?”
In response, Muslim Advocates have released a groundbreaking report on the targeting of Americans - because they are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim - by Customs & Border Protection agents for deeply invasive searches and interrogations.
The report, Unreasonable Intrusions: Investigating the Politics, Faith & Finances of Americans Returning Home, can be viewed here: http://www.muslimadvocates.org/documents/Unreasoneable_Intrusions_2009.pdf
The report contains dozens of stories of individuals who have shared with Muslim Advocates their experiences when returning home from overseas travel. These experiences have taken place at land crossings and international airports – from San Francisco to New York, Detroit to Houston. These Americans are young, old, male, female, a firefighter, military veterans, students, lawyers, doctors, senior executives with major high tech companies, and academic researchers at Ivy League institutions.
The report also lays out a comprehensive set of solutions for the President and Congress. These solutions strike the right balance in upholding our nation’s founding values and keeping our nation safe and secure.
As the Washington Post reports:
The DHS has received more than 54,500 requests for redress since February 2007 and closed 31,000 of them, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Critics say the program does not inform travelers whether their names are listed, whether any change has been made or how to get off the watch list and avoid being relisted.
This issues, which fall into the broader category of Civil Rights violations, which are currently being investigated in Congress, must be dealt with head on by the administration.