July 04, 2012It is amazing the things that I've seen in my lifetime.
In my 25 years, society and the way it views many things has come so far. Twenty-five years ago the nation could not have conceived that a woman and a black man would duke it out for the Democratic presidential nomination. The thought would have been unfathomable. In 2008, it was a reality.
Now, in 2012, it seems that society has taken the proverbial "three steps forward and two steps back."
Arizona Senate Bill 1070, or the Support of Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, was rejected two weeks ago by the U.S. Supreme Court, in an effort to curb illegal immigration.
Stricken down with the exception of one vital and potentially civil-rights-stripping provision: Law enforcement officials will now be allowed to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.
Routine traffic stops and ordinance violations all the way to domestic disputes and potential criminal activity can all be considered cause to question a person's citizenry.
Supposedly, this power is to give the state the opportunity to deter the illegal immigration of Latinos and Hispanics from Central and South America and Mexico into Arizona.
The provision also prohibits law enforcement officials from using skin color or race as the only reason for imploring about lawful citizenship.
Officials may not use racial profiling; they have to use another means of determining suspicion or face repercussions.
But, let's face it, illegal aliens are NOT going to have a sign hanging around their neck saying, "Hi, my name is XXX, and I'm an illegal immigrant." It won't be tattooed on their forehead either.
So, what basis will an officer be able to use to determine whether or not the person is suspiciously NOT American?
The fact is, skin tone, body shape and vocal accent are still the most identifying features that we possess to let others know where we come from, and to use any of those as a judgment about whether or not to ask for a "green card" or proof of citizenry is racial profiling.
Perhaps they will use your last name as an indication of your origin and authenticity as a citizen of the United States. If your last name is Smith, Brown or Jones, you're probably fine. If it's Lopez, Martinez, Hernandez or any other Latino-sounding moniker, watch out; you're probably going to be asked for some identification.
If we can be honest and impartial for a moment, this doesn't just create a problem for the people who live in Arizona. If legislation like this takes hold, it creates a problem for all of us, because it has the potential to spread to all peoples, not just the Hispanic and Latino population.
A great man once said that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Provisions like this create confusion within law enforcement agencies if they aren't implemented with care. Tuscon's chief of police has already said that the law "will seriously undermine local law enforcement" because it does not clarify what is considered "reasonable suspicion" if an officer cannot utilize skin color.
It will also make it more difficult for minorities or immigrants (legal and non-legal) to trust police. This means they will be less likely to report crimes and also less willing to work with agencies when there is a crime committed.
Arizona SB 1070 creates an aura of distrust that harkens back to the days when our government sent the Japanese to internment camps in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Studies have shown that more than 60 percent of those interred were United States citizens. That is a huge margin of error and one that has had an impact on family structures and race relations within the United States for decades.
Former President Ronald Reagan called it "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."
Is it not the same now? Are our leaders not simply reacting in a prejudicially hysterical way because of a war on economics and immigration? It seems that this is a route to failure in political leadership.
It's not a far stretch to see how this new law could potentially play out. We are only human and, in the instance of misinformation or mistrust, new regulations like this one can create potentially volatile situations in which the action of a few endanger the well being of a whole.
It is impossible not to create a division between the people and the government when the government casts a net of suspicion on the very people it is there to protect.