The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a problem with discriminatory profiling. Too often, it relies on religious, ethnic, or racial stereotypes in carrying out its expansive counterterrorism mandate, as well as its other functions. DHS agents question Muslim travelers about their religious views when they enter the United States and single out Latino communities for detention and deportation. They detain Americans at the border simply based on their country of birth. Officers charged with identifying potentially risky travelers by looking for suspicious behaviors have said that the scientifically discredited program they used amounted to a back door for racial profiling. The administration has disavowed anti-extremism programs that wrongly assumed that Muslims are predisposed to terrorism, and yet DHS continues to fund similar initiatives.
DHS must strengthen its nondiscrimination rules, ensure that those rules cover all its activities, and develop effective accountability mechanisms. Building on our recommendations in A Course Correction for Homeland Security: Curbing Counterterrorism Abuses, this report proposes a model policy that would close current gaps. The secretary of homeland security has the authority to adopt such a policy and should waste no time in doing so.