The Hon. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Office of the Mayor, City of Los Angeles
200 North Spring Street, Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Chief William J. Bratton
Chief of Police
Los Angeles Police Department
150 N. Los Angeles Street, Room 630
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Re: Joint Statement on the LAPD’s Decision to “Shelve” Mapping of Muslim-American Community
On behalf of the undersigned bar associations and civil rights organizations, we welcome the decision by the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) to “shelve” efforts by the LAPD to “map” Muslim communities in the Los Angeles area under the guise of counter-terrorism. Though we commend the LAPD for being responsive to the concerns of the Muslim community, we feel it is necessary that the LAPD should not only “shelve” the program, but in light of historical lessons, permanently abandon and publicly renounce such efforts altogether.
We were deeply disturbed by LAPD Commander Michael Downing’s recent description of the mapping program as an effort “to identify and counter violent extremism,” and his public pronouncements that "we want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so we can reach out to those communities.” The road to Manzanar was paved with similar “outreach” efforts initiated in the name of national security. Soon after the Pearl Harbor attack, then Attorney General Earl Warren directed the mapping of all Japanese-owned land in California, moved to enforce the Alien Land Law against Japanese landowners, and publicly stated his belief that the Japanese presence created the conditions for another Pearl Harbor. Having set the stage for internment, he soon advocated for excluding all Japanese from within 200 miles of the coast.
At a time when hate crimes and other egregious civil rights violations committed against Muslims, South Asians, Arabs, Iranians and other minority communities are on the rise, we feel it was deeply irresponsible for Commander Downing to popularize the premise that these communities are more likely than other Americans to commit violent acts of terror.
This premise is false — one only needs to examine the many documented acts of hatred and violence directed at these communities by fellow Americans from outside these communities, not to mention the dearth of successful domestic terrorism prosecutions. History demonstrates the danger of advancing such premises. Not long ago, it was falsely premised that all Japanese-Americans were inclined toward espionage. The results were tragic and shameful for our great nation.
Isolating whole communities for investigation, surveillance, and intelligence-gathering based on religion and national origin is no less unlawful, imprudent and reprehensible than racial profiling — which the U.S. Department of Justice banned for federal law enforcement agencies based on a presidential directive. The LAPD’s plan raised urgent constitutional concerns — violating equal protection guarantees and chilling the free exercise of religion.
The lessons of Japanese internment — beginning with mapping — taught our country that national security goals are not served by violating civil liberties. The LAPD’s proposed measures had threatened to drop these hard-learned lessons down the memory hole. We urge all law enforcement agencies to keep these lessons in mind, so that we never have to relearn them.
The South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
The Bay Area Association of Muslim Lawyers
The Iranian American Bar Association
The Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area
The Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund