In addition, expanding the prohibited categories to include not only race and color, but also national origin, religion and even sex will complicate both counterterrorism and immigration enforcement. President George W. Bush banned racial profiling in federal law enforcement in 2003, but he applied the ban only to racial and ethnic profiling and carved out exemptions for terrorism and national security. The new regulations are expected to reverse those exemptions, which will make the fight against terrorism more difficult.
One of the reasons that the Bush administration allowed investigators to profile based on national origin and religion was that both factors were relevant in counterterrorism. The administration made the exceptions less than two years after 19 terrorists attacked the United States, all of them foreign-born Islamists. It would have been irresponsible for the Bush administration not to take religion and national origin into account in looking for those likely to commit new acts of terrorism.
In fact, the chief criticism of security measures at airports and other places in the wake of 9/11 is that there hasn't been enough profiling. Does it really make sense to subject a 75-year-old woman from Kansas to the same level of scrutiny as a 25-year-old male from Yemen? It makes sense to pay closer attention to some people than others if you have limited resources. Some would call that discernment, not discrimination.
Holder's proposals have garnered praise from those in the civil rights and civil liberties community and in some Arab and Muslim organizations. But they are likely to weaken national security, make policing more difficult and making all Americans -- including minorities -- less safe in their own communities.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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