News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Racial profiling? It's OK as long as police are not harassing me.

In this statement at the House of Representatives, Iowa Congressman Steve King defends Arizona's SB1070 by arguing that "profiling has always been a legitimate part of law enforcement." Mr. King goes on to say, "It's not wrong to use race or other indicators for the sake of identifying people that are violating the law." Mr. King ends his speech with the absurd contention that police have a "sixth sense" that enables them to detect illegal immigrants. The congressman apparently has an unbounded faith in the paranormal abilities of our law enforcement officials. That is, as long as the law they're enforcing is illegal immigration.

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that Ohio police no longer need to use radar equipment to issue speeding tickets. The hue and cry from Ohio motorists was loud and predictable. "How can we give police godlike powers? They'll abuse the law," many people said. However, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, 58% of Americans support Arizona's SB1070. Therefore, many of the same people who are irate at being detained on a policeman's whim are perfectly fine with giving police "godlike" powers when it comes to identifying illegal immigrants. Now here's where the irony gets really thick: Working without a visa is a civil violation, not a crime, just like simple speeding.

The human mind is capable of many kinds of sophistry to rationalize our feelings. Congressman King is voicing what many misguided Americans feel is necessary to stop illegal immigration. However, were Mr. King and most of those supporting SB1070 among the group of people who will be harassed by this law, I doubt they would be so sanguine about the possibility of racial profiling. The overwhelming majority of Latinos in the USA are here legally. Under this law, many legal residents of the United States will be continually harassed because of their appearance. That is simply wrong. 

This law may mark the beginning of a chapter in U.S. history we will later recall with shame. Stripped of its rationalizations, it smacks of the Japanese internment during WWII, the McCarthy witch hunts and the Know Nothings era, times when the rights of some Americans were trampled by a majority blinded by fear.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of AZ's SB1070 is how its support is divided along ethnic lines. The poll showed 68% of whites support the law while 69% of non-whites oppose it. This is not a good omen for the future of the nation.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez 


Tracy said...

I have cops in my family, I'm off to ask them about their 'sixth sense' right now! LOL

ryan said...

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All the best,