Grassley defended his amendment by asking, “what does country of origin have anything to do with profiling?” In response, Gang Of Eight member Sen. Dick Durbin (D-ILL) tore down Grassley’s definition of racial profiling, explaining that the language in the bill is a necessary protection and even the same practice embraced by Bush administration officials:
DURBIN: Senator Grassley, let me say two or three things about this. First, there is no mention of country of origin in the language of this bill. We specifically do not mention country of origin and that was the basis of your argument. And so I’d ask you and your staff to take another look at it. We do not raise that issue. Number two, the language –
GRASSLEY: Why then don’t you mention it as — so that it’s –
DURBIN: Because what we’ve done is specify that you cannot use race or ethnicity. Now, how did we come up with race or ethnicity? This was the standard established –
GRASSLEY: I’m not arguing that point I think you’re right by including that in the bill. But what does country of origin have anything to do with profiling?
DURBIN: It’s not mentioned nor religion. Why did we pick race and ethnicity? Those were the standards were established by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003. We took the Ashcroft profiling guidance, issued by this Department of Justice, and embodied it in this. It is not a radical departure from past practice. In fact, it embodies the practice of former conservative Republican attorney general under a Republican president.
Durbin went on to recount examples of African-American and Hispanic women facing strip searches at airports far more often than white passengers. “The GAO did a finding on it, an investigation: African-Americans were twice as likely — pardon me, nine times as likely, Hispanic Americans were nearly four times as likely, as white passengers to be strip searched,” Durbin said. “And there were no — there was no evidence of contraband in those groups that were being strip searched. This was clearly a waste of effort and embarrassing and insulting exercise of authority.”
Grassley’s amendment, which was slammed by immigration advocates, was defeated by a voice vote.
A similar amendment offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) passed Monday night that requires additional screening for certain individuals. During the debate on the amendment, Graham offered Yemen as an example of a place that requires selective discrimination. When asked why he was not satisfied with existing lists used for terrorist threats, Graham replied, “we didn’t want to do lists because Ruissa would be on that list. We want to do regions, or places that people would pose a risk.” Graham cited an example that “all the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.” Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) responded, “how far does this go?”