The PJ Tatler

Amendment Would Deny Transportation Funding to States That Do Racial Profiling

D.C.’s delegate to Congress will introduce a bill Monday to deny federal transportation funding to states deemed to have committed racial profiling.

The amendment to be offered on the fiscal year 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill would prohibit states that receive federal transportation funding from stopping, investigating, arresting, or detaining people “based on their appearance.”

“Considering our country’s history and increasing diversity, we are late in barring profiling at the national level,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). “At the very least, federal taxpayers should not be compelled to subsidize the unconstitutional practice of profiling by law enforcement officials.”

“I hope that Members of Congress, regardless of our differences, will agree on the importance of restricting the use of federal funds for practices that promote profiling,” she said.

Last year, Norton marked the first anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death by reintroducing legislation to re-establish a federal grant program intended to reduce racial profiling.

Norton’s bill permitted states to apply for grants to develop racial profiling laws, to collect and maintain data on traffic stops, to fashion programs to reduce racial profiling, and to train law enforcement officers. The program was included in the 2005 surface transportation law but expired in 2009.

“It’s a bill that would give grants to local jurisdictions in order to help them develop laws and programs that can combat racial profiling. I have tried in the past to get a national law against racial profiling but have been unable to do that, so this is my fallback,” she told PJM last year after a community forum to discuss Martin’s death.

“And I don’t see how anybody could be against this,” she added. “You don’t have to take the grant, you don’t have to participate, but if you want help, and some cities need help, they don’t know what to do, then you can get help through this grant funding.”

Norton, the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, will try to get this bill included in the surface transportation reauthorization bill Congress will be writing this year.