In Open Letter to President-Elect Trump, Lawyers’ Committee Stands Against Racial Profiling and Discrimination

Racial Justice

Today, in an open letter to President-Elect Donald Trump, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice made clear that it will aggressively protect the civil rights of minority and immigrant communities in Massachusetts.

The Lawyers’ Committee’s letter expressly states that efforts to impose racial profiling and discriminatory policies in the law enforcement and immigration contexts in Massachusetts will be met with legal challenges.

Time and time again, courts have clarified that racial profiling and discriminatory practices have no place in Massachusetts — most recently with the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Commonwealth v. Warren, which recognized that people of color suffer the “recurring indignity” of being racially profiled.

As the letter clarifies, the Lawyers’ Committee stands ready to protect vulnerable individuals and marginalized communities in Massachusetts.

The full letter appears here:

November 21, 2016

President-Elect Donald Trump

Trump Tower

725 5th Avenue

New York, NY 10022

Re: Guiding Principles for Legal Priorities

Dear President-Elect Trump:

On behalf of the minority and low-income communities that we represent, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice respectfully writes to provide guiding principles as you move from the campaign trail to the White House.

Founded in 1968, the Lawyers’ Committee was the first of eight affiliates of the Washington-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national organization formed at the request of President John F. Kennedy to move the civil rights movement from the streets to the courtroom. Through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community education we safeguard the civil, social, and economic rights of our constituencies.

  • Law Enforcement Policies Must Respect The Rights Of All Americans.  At the Lawyers’ Committee, we know that all Americans want to feel safe and secure, while also experiencing equal protection of the law. Campaign statements regarding the restoration of “law and order” through stop-and-frisk policies do the exact opposite. Courts have repeatedly found that investigatory tactics such as stop-and-frisk are unconstitutional and discriminatory policies that encourage racial profiling and privacy violations. See Floyd v. City of New York, 959 F.Supp.2d 540 (S.D.N.Y. 2013); see also Commonwealth v. Warren, No. 11956, slip op. (Mass. Sept. 20, 2016).

Racial profiling makes people of color feel less comfortable interacting with police and, thus, less likely to seek police protection – this is particularly harmful for victims of domestic violence. People of color are less likely to come forward as witnesses to help law enforcement investigate and resolve crimes when they do not trust law enforcement to treat them equally. This makes all of us – regardless of our race or immigration status – less safe. Reliance on racial profiling will alienate communities of color, undermine law enforcement and contravene the core police objectives of controlling crime and promoting public safety. See Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 62 (2015). In an era of growing tension between police departments and communities of color, we urge you to promote racial justice in all law enforcement policies. If implemented in Massachusetts, racial profiling policies will be legally challenged by the Lawyers’ Committee. 

  • Immigration Policy and Enforcement Priorities Must Respect Constitutional Boundaries.  Immigrants in our country – regardless of race, national origin or immigration status – have rights and protections under federal, state, and local laws. Proposals made during your campaign, such as the creation of a mass deportation force, a blanket ban against Muslims from entering the country, and a registry of people who practice Islam, violate well-established constitutional protections.
  • Supreme Court Judicial Nominees Must Show Respect For Legal Precedent.  Judicial appointments made by both Republican and Democratic administrations have agreed on the importance of respecting legal precedent, and that failing to do so can cause “profound and unnecessary damage to the Court’s legitimacy and the Nation’s commitment to the rule of law.”  Planned Parenthood of Se. Pennsylvania, et. al. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 854 (1992). Campaign statements indicating a willingness to select judicial nominees who would overturn decisions that the Supreme Court has reached – and on which millions of Americans depend, including reproductive choice and marriage equality – undermine the integrity of the judicial system. Any nominee who is so malleable to political pressure as to disregard the bedrock legal principal of stare decisis is directly out of line with the wishes of the American people.

As you move from the campaign trail to the White House, the Lawyers’ Committee urges you to keep these guiding principles in mind.

Respectfully submitted,

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Esq.

Executive Director