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Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Discriminatory Practices Against Minorities

Law enforcement in the United States disproportionately targets members of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous minorities. This leads to higher levels of arrests, violence and killings by police, as well as convictions in these communities. The ensuing arrests, convictions and criminal records prevent members of targeted communities from accessing jobs, housing, education, public assistance and the right to vote.

With regards to police, the following cases provide a mere snapshot of how racial profiling, despite legal efforts against it, is still widespread during arrests:

  • On April 12, 2018, two African American men in a Starbucks Coffee shop in Philadelphia waited for a business associate to arrive for a meeting. The men asked to use the bathroom but were refused permission because they had not purchased anything. When the men still did not buy anything as they waited, the manager asked them to leave. When they did not, the manager called police, who arrested, handcuffed, and charged the men. They were later released and charges were dropped, and the men reached a civil settlement with the city.
  • On April 29, 2018, a white woman called the police in Oakland, California, because she observed a black family group in a public park getting ready to have a barbeque with (she said) the wrong type of grill. The incident took place in a “designated barbeque zone” in the well-used park in which barbequing is a regular activity. Police responded, detaining and questioning the family for an hour. They made no arrests.
  • In May 2018, as four people—three of them black—checked out of an Airbnb rental in Rialto, California, and loaded their luggage in a car, preparing to leave, seven police cars swarmed the area and stopped them. A police sergeant approached, ordered them to put their hands in the air, and told them they were also being tracked by a police helicopter. The police had a report by a (white) neighbor that she did not recognize them, and they might have burglarizing the house. The guests showed the sergeant their paperwork (he said he did not know what Airbnb was) and contacted the owner of the property to confirm they were guests. The guests were held for 45 minutes before being released.
  • On May 8, 2018, a black graduate student at Yale University decided to take a nap in her dorm’s common area during a long night writing a paper. A white graduate student entered the room, flipped on the lights, and told the black student she had no right to sleep there; she then called the campus police. When police responded, the black graduate student had to spend almost an hour with the police to prove that she had a right to be present.
  • On August 23, 2020, Jacob S. Blake, a 29-year-old African American man, was shot and seriously injured by police officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sheskey shot at Blake's back seven times when Blake opened the driver's door to his car. Three of Blake's sons were in the backseat at the time. Earlier during the encounter, Blake had been tasered and had scuffled with officers.

Profiling by proxy represents a new development in racial profiling during which racial and ethnic minorities suffer increased police attention while not engaged in criminal behavior. This is often at the behest of white civilians.

With regards to prisons, it is important to note that Islam is the fastest growing religion in U.S. prisons, where the population is 18 percent Muslim (compared to 1 percent in the general population); 80 percent of all prison-based religious conversions are to Islam. Black Muslim organizations, such as The Nation of Islam and Moorish Science Temple of America, began prison outreach efforts in the 1940s. The most famous convert, Malcolm X, took interest in the Black Muslim movement while incarcerated. Between October 2017 and January 2019, there were also 163 lawsuits in which Muslims alleged their right to practice while in prison was being violated, which indicates that many state prisons are preventing incarcerated Muslims from practicing their faith.

The treatment of Muslims varies across state prisons. In 17 states, state prisons specifically allow religious head coverings. More and more states are fully accommodating Muslim dietary requirements (halal-certified meals). But there are states that still make access to alternative meals difficult or impossible. In Nevada, for example, to get a meat-substitute diet a prisoner has to pass a diet accommodation interview. In North Dakota, there is a “60-day sincerity test” for anyone who changes religions and has a new religious dietary requirement as part of the practice.

Notwithstanding these grievances from Muslim prisoners, their religious practice in U.S. prisons are legally protected by the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 2000. That law states the government cannot impede a prisoner's free exercise of religion without a compelling reason. For the most part, state prisons respect federal law that protects religious practice for prisoners. And when prisoners sue over violations of religious practice, it is difficult for the state to win.

There were more restrictions to asylum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New travel restrictions based on an order issued by the Center for Disease Control allows the U.S. government to turn back asylum seekers including accompanied children, at the border. This travel restriction violates both U.S. and international law. The Center for Disease Control issued this rule without regard for treaties ratified by the U.S. which state that even in times of emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. is obligated to protect refugees and asylum seekers. The swift expulsion of asylum seekers restricts their access to legal protections designed to ensure they are not returned to threats of persecution. Furthermore, the attorney general has stripped immigration judges of the authority used to decide which asylum seekers can be released from detention while they await the outcome of their asylum case. Asylum seekers continue to face indefinite detention while seeking protection.

The Trump administration also piloted a program called the Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR), which will hasten the removal of asylum seekers by making it harder for them to meet with a lawyer and fast tracking the deportation process to 10 days. Previously, asylum seekers who crossed into the U.S. were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, where ICE must provide access to a telephone and an opportunity to meet with an attorney to prepare for an asylum screening and review by an immigration judge. Under PACR, asylum seekers are kept in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, rather than transferred to ICE. They have 24 hours to call a family member or an attorney before being interviewed by an asylum officer. More than 1,000 asylum seekers have already been affected by this program, which denies them their rights to due process and legal counsel. While the litigation continues, the Trump administration also started enforcing “expedited removal” or immediate deportation proceedings for any non-citizen who has not been admitted/paroled at a port of entry, found anywhere in the U.S. and has been in the country for less than two years. This policy stripped undocumented immigrants, especially asylum seekers, of their access to legal representation to pursue an immigration pathway.

Trump’ s immigration policies included (but were not limited to):

  • The order, on September 5, 2017, to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which currently enrolls 700,000 children ages 11 and up. This program shields some young undocumented immigrants, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” who often arrived at a very young age in circumstances beyond their control, from deportation.
  • On November 17, 2018 the US Citizenship and Immigration Services released an update stating that immigrants applying for U and T and three other types of humanitarian relief visas could be more easily placed in deportation proceeding if their applications are denied and they do not have an underlying legal status. This affected crime survivors, relatives of asylum seekers, young immigrants requesting the protection of a juvenile court, as well as women seeking protection under the Violence Against Women Act.
  • The 2020 pandemic also contributed to the naturalization backlog. Over 100,000 to 300,000 immigrants have been waiting to become naturalized, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the lack of alternative methods, such as administering oaths virtually or in a socially distanced ceremonies). This resulted in many immigrants not becoming citizens in time to be able to vote in the November election.
  • On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that separated hundreds of immigrant children from their families. The policy had the federal prosecutors criminally prosecute all adult migrants entering the country illegally, leading to the separation of families because children cannot be held in detention facilities with their parents. Over 5,000 children were separated from their families at U.S.-Mexican border. It is estimated that parents of over 500 children still have not been found as of October, 2020. Over 5,000 were split from their parents. This policy was proclaimed illegal by the UN.
  • On May 22, 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that it is up to individual schools to decide whether to call USCIS if they suspect their students are undocumented. This policy would go against the Supreme Court’s 1982s ruling in Plyler v. DOE which guaranteed the rights of students to receipt a public education regardless of their immigrant status.
  • On October 4, 2019 Trump signed a proclamation requiring visa-seekers to prove their ability to obtain private health insurance within 30 days of arrival in the U.S. or their ability to otherwise pay for health insurance as a condition of admission. Many visa-seekers will be affected as they will be unable to buy private insurance. This complication will curtain legal immigration even further.
  • Approximately 7.5% of all births in the U.S. (about 300,000 births per year) are to unauthorized immigrants. About 4.5 million children living in the U.S. were born to unauthorized immigrants and received citizenship by birth. On January 24, 2020, the Trump administration adopted a policy to make it more difficult for pregnant foreign women to come to the US where it is suspected that the purpose is to give birth on US soil and thereby to ensure their children become US citizens.
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