Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General under President Obama, wrote three letters in June 2016 to local and state officials urging them not to require fingerprint-based background checks for purposes unrelated to law enforcement. These letters were reported in The Hill.
“When I served as U.S. Attorney General, I asked Attorneys General in every state and Cabinet secretaries throughout the federal government to consider how they could eliminate policies and regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on individuals reentering society. For non-law enforcement purposes, fingerprint-based background checks are just such a practice.”
The Hill story adds:
The former attorney general cast his opposition to fingerprint-based checks as a matter of racial justice.
The checks draw on a large FBI database containing biometric information on people around the country, which critics say includes data on arrests but, often, not data on whether a person was actually convicted of a crime.
Holder told the officials that could hurt black and Hispanic men, who have a high likelihood of being arrested when they are young.
Quoting General Holder again: “The FBI database has a clearly-defined purpose: to aid law enforcement during investigations. It facilitates investigators who are then expected to follow up on information found in the database to determine whether it is complete or not,”. “It was not designed to be used to determine whether or not someone is eligible for a work opportunity. Relying on it for that purpose is both unwise and unfair.”
The letter written by General Holder to Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale is available here. The blog, whosdrivingyou, which is run by the taxicab industry, was critical of General Holder’s letter by noting that he was “being compensated for his involvement”. One wonders if the blog intended to impugn General Holder’s ethics. Yet, General Holder has a unique perspective that is largely unparalleled in American law enforcement.
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More