During a time when most Americans would rather bid their civil liberties adieu than be caught saying “no” to the federal government, the Portland, Ore. police department proves the Fourth Amendment is not dead. The Portland branch of the U.S. Attorney”s Office asked the local police two weeks ago for assistance in interviewing a long list of men about the Sept. 11 attacks: 5,000 men without criminal records, ages 18 to 33, who came to the United States from countries where the al-Qaeda terrorist organization operates after Jan. 1, 2000. The Portland police department wisely refused to participate in this thinly veiled exercise in racial profiling.
Acting Police Chief Andrew Kirkland told the Associated Press he was just enforcing the law: ” the law does not allow us to go out and arbitrarily interview people whose only offense is immigration or citizenship.”
The Justice Department”s assertion that this “counter-terror” measure does not amount to racial profiling is weak at best while the list was not expressly based on ethnic origin, it is not surprising that most immigrants from predominantly Arab and Muslim countries are, in fact, Arabs and Muslims.
The mere existence of this list reinforces the idea that any person from the same country as terrorists are hiding information. This statement is not a common-sensical assessment of the situation it is the battle cry of racial profilers.
Of the 5,000 men on the list, 840 are from Michigan, some being University students and local residents. The University”s Department of Public Safety and Ann Arbor”s police chief Daniel Oates should follow Kirkland”s example.
Oates has shown a strong commitment to fighting racial profiling in Ann Arbor, working with members of the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP to cement the AAPD”s anti-racial profiling policy just last week. Hopefully, Oates will stand by this policy even in the face of pressure from the federal government.