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New Racial Profiling Guidelines Leave Some Agencies Exempt

Civil rights groups worry the new federal guidelines on racial profiling will still allow some agencies to profile certain communities.

For the first time in ten years, the Justice Department has issued new federal guidelines on racial profiling that some community groups fear could actually make the discriminatory practice more common.

The existing 2003 guidelines have been updated to now protect individuals based on national origin, religion, gender and sexual orientation. But while the Justice Department believes the new rules could help curb the practice of racial profiling, the update exempts from compliance the FBI, local police, and all the key agencies that might use profiling like the Department of Homeland Security’s Custom and Border Protection (CBP) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Civil rights groups representing South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and Middle Eastern groups in particular voiced dissatisfaction.

“The new policy will provide a green light for the largest law enforcement agencies in the nation to profile these communities,” Suman Raghunathan, the executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), told NBC News.

Raghunathan said many of her organization’s community partners fear the potential of individual rights violations and being “treated as second-class citizens.”

A Department of Homeland Security fact sheet, as quoted in the Washington Post, insists that the exemptions do not mean officers and agents are free to profile. “To the contrary, DHS’s existing policies make it categorically clear that profiling is prohibited, while articulating limited circumstances where it is permissible to rely in part on these characteristics, because of the unique nature of border and transportation security as compared to traditional law enforcement.”

Grassroots organizations point out that TSA and Customs and Border Patrol are the agencies most often cited in lawsuits as being discriminatory or abusive. Raghunathan said making these agencies follow the new guidelines would assure the rights of all Americans were protected.