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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is simple: to prohibit any Federal funds from flowing to law enforcement organizations that engage in any form of racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

It's been a matter of concern for decades among minority communities when policing organizations engage in profiling, but recent events have brought the problem into sharp focus.

Starting last August, the Associated Press published a series of disturbing stories about the systematic racial, ethnic, and religious profiling conducted by the New York City Police Department against Muslim and Arab Americans in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana.

In September of last year, I asked the Department of Justice to investigate what we now know was a pattern of surveillance and infiltration by the New York Police Department against innocent American Muslims in the absence of a valid investigative reason. These Muslim communities were mapped, infiltrated, and surveilled simply because they were Muslim.

Profiling is wrong. Profiling on the basis of the race, ethnicity, and religion is a violation of core constitutional principles.

Profiling is also wrong because it is not good policing. Profiling is an unthinking, lazy, unprofessional approach to police work and intelligence work, and it only raises the risk that the real plot will slip through the cracks. Indeed, profiling is counterproductive.

The sloppiness of the NYPD surveillance effort was such that several non-Muslim establishments were labeled as being owned by Muslims and, contrary to the blanket assertions by some that the tactics have kept New York City safe, the NYPD failed to uncover two actual plots against New York City, those perpetrated by Faisal Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi.

In Shahzad's case, the FBI was surveilling both the mosque he attended and the Muslim Student Association of his accomplice. In Zazi's case, the NYPD actually took actions that let Zazi be tipped off about the FBI's investigation.

The NYPD's surreptitious, uncoordinated, and unprofessional approach to counterterrorism prevention within the American Muslim community shows that they have learned nothing from the lessons elucidated from the Ð9/11 Commission's report.

Now, let me be clear. This amendment is not aimed solely at one particular law enforcement organization. Over the decades, law enforcement agencies across the country have profiled against African Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities. Indeed, the Department of Justice has specific guidance prohibiting this practice because it has become widespread, and it has conducted litigation against Police Departments for using race or ethnicity to target citizens for arrest in California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and other States.

My amendment would ensure that no Federal funds are flowing to any law enforcement entity that the Department has identified as engaging in racial, ethnic, and religious profiling.

Racial, ethnic and religious profiling by police is not something taxpayer dollars should be spent for. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FATTAH. I would be glad to yield to the gentleman.

Mr. HOLT. Thank you.

This is completely consistent with an appropriations bill for the Department of Justice. Just as we have spent decades getting away from the practice of harassing people for driving while black, we've got to get away from the practice of harassing people for shopping while Muslim.

Mr. FATTAH. In reclaiming my time, the point here is that, with every dollar that we appropriate to the Department of Justice, we operate under the belief that they're carrying out their constitutional responsibilities, so a limitation that says that they have to operate within the Constitution, at best, is somewhat redundant.

Mr. HOLT. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FATTAH. I yield to the gentleman from New Jersey.

Mr. HOLT. Reference was made to the Deputy National Security Advisor of President Obama's, Mr. Brennan.

What Mr. Brennan actually said was that, for the NYPD to be effective, they need the cooperation of the Muslim community. In fact, if you talk with the Muslim community, they are not only outraged by this behavior; they are intimidated by it. They see it as profiling. My colleague from New York and my colleague from Pennsylvania can say, well, of course everybody is operating under the law.

Mr. FATTAH. In reclaiming my time, I didn't say that. I understand, from the press reports one could consider this profiling. All I am suggesting to you is that this is not the appropriate vehicle for us to deal with it. Profiling would be improper, and I believe the Justice Department has articulated that their position is not to profile.

Mr. HOLT. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. FATTAH. I will be glad to yield to the gentleman from New Jersey.

Mr. HOLT. I would hope that the gentleman would find a place for this instruction to the Department of Justice in order to make sure that the recipients of their grants do what they are, indeed, supposed to do. We're talking about money spent. We should make sure that the taxpayer money is spent for good policing.


Mr. HOLT. Since you refer to the Deputy National Security Advisor, it's worth pointing out that a couple of days later the White House felt it necessary to back away from his comments and to say:

John, in his remarks, wasn't referring to the NYPD surveillance.

Of course he was, but they had to say he wasn't because he had misspoken. Rather, he was stating that everyone in the counterterrorism and law enforcement community must make sure that we are doing things consistent with the law.

In other words, Mr. Brennan was out of bounds, and the White House had to walk that back. So I wouldn't, if I were you, choose his endorsement of these NYPD activities as the best argument against my amendment.


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