UN Human Rights Body Issues Decisive Observations on Racial Discrimination in US

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Robyn Shepherd, ACLU, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org
Nadine Wahab, Rights Working Group, (202) 365-6071 or 296-2300; nwahab@rightsworkinggroup.org

UN Human Rights Body Issues Decisive Observations on Racial Discrimination in US

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Finds Progress Lacking and Calls for Legislation

NEW YORK - In
a letter to the Obama administration made public by the American Civil
Liberties Union today, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination expressed concerns over a lack of progress to
end racial discrimination in the United States. The letter urged the
Obama administration and Congress to do more to end racial profiling,
strengthen efforts to provide adequate and affordable housing to the
victims of Hurricane Katrina, end the practice of sentencing juveniles
- most of whom are persons of color - to life sentences without parole
and address the deprivation of Western Shoshone American Indians of
their ancestral lands.

"The message from the committee is a
stark reminder of how much remains to be done to achieve racial
equality. Full implementation and enforcement of human rights treaty
obligations are critical for making real progress at home and for U.S.
leadership on human rights abroad," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the
ACLU Human Rights Program. "The Obama administration must change gears
and prioritize human rights at home. The committee's recommendations
offer a blueprint to end racial discrimination and promote equal
opportunity."

The committee's observations came
after reviewing a one-year follow-up report submitted by the U.S.
government to the committee in January 2009, days before the end of the
Bush administration. That report aimed to demonstrate compliance with
the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (CERD), which the U.S. ratified in 1994. Based on shadow
reports from nongovernmental organizations - including an ACLU and
Rights Working Group (RWG) report on racial profiling - the committee,
in its letter to the Obama administration, urged the U.S. to "make all
efforts to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA)" and to review the
2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement
Agencies, "with a view to avoiding any ambiguous language that may
provide a loophole allowing for actions to constitute racial
profiling."
 
In its letter, the CERD committee
also urged the U.S. government "to review the National Entry and Exit
Registration System (NSEERS), with the view of avoiding racial
profiling in migration policies," and to reconsider a program - known
as 287(g) - that allows certain state and local law enforcement
agencies to engage in federal immigration enforcement activities and
has been widely criticized as fostering racial profiling and draining
local police resources.

"After 9/11, the U.S. government has
increasingly used immigration enforcement as a proxy to target Muslim,
Arab and South Asian communities," said Margaret Huang, Executive
Director of the Rights Working Group. "The conflation of immigration
law with 'national security' concerns has resulted in immigration
enforcement programs that foster illegal racial profiling for immigrant
communities across the board. The United States government should
implement the committee's recommendations and should work to end
programs like NSEERS and 287(g) which have been applied
discriminatorily, resulting in racial and religious profiling and
numerous human rights violations."

"The best way to rid the nation of
the scourge of racial and ethnic profiling and bring this country into
conformity with both the Constitution and international human rights
obligations is to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA)," said
Chandra Bhatnagar, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program.
"ERPA would ban the practice of racial profiling by federal law
enforcement agencies and provide federal funding to state and local
police departments if they adopt policies to prohibit the practice.
Passing this act would demonstrate that the U.S. is committed to
meeting the standards set by the CERD."

The committee is an independent
group of 18 human rights experts that oversee compliance with CERD. In
March 2008, the committee issued a strongly worded critique of the U.S.
record on racial discrimination and recommendations for U.S. compliance
with the CERD treaty. The Bush administration report submitted in
January to demonstrate compliance was criticized by many human rights
groups as a last-minute whitewash report and full of omissions.

The CERD letter to the U.S. Government is available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/racialjustice/41258res20090928.html

The Bush administration's January submission to CERD is available online at: www.state.gov/documents/organization/113905.pdf

The ACLU and RWG's report to CERD is available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/racialjustice/40055pub20090629.html

The CERD 2008 concluding recommendations are available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/racialjustice/34375res20080307.html

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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