Racial profiling is not immigration reform

Marchaè Grair

The American government made mistakes concerning race relations repeatedly throughout its history, but it seems the government of Arizona might have skipped a history lesson or two.

A new Arizona law, which proponents tout as immigration reform, gives authorities the right to exercise racial profiling. This law, called SB1070, “will require state police to question people about their immigration status if there is ‘reasonable suspicion,’” according to an article on BBC.com. Authorities will have the right to arrest any person suspected of being an immigrant who is not carrying documentation.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law against the wishes of many Democrats in her state, civil rights groups and President Obama. Civil rights groups argue the bill will lead to harassment of all Hispanics, who will be questioned without probable cause. President Obama wants to bring immigration reform to the federal level, protecting citizens from oppressive laws.

Many groups who support alternative approaches to reform called for an immediate boycott of Arizona commerce and tourism. Business owners already reported cancellations of Arizona hotel reservations and travel packages by people who cite the law as grounds for unnecessary harassment.

It’s understandable that Arizona government officials and citizens are concerned about this; it’s a border state and a primary target for illegal immigration.

However, the Arizona government’s attempt at reform is misguided. Instead of focusing more money and efforts on border patrol, authorities will spend time and money arresting those they “suspect” of being illegal immigrants. Hispanic Americans who look like immigrants, or new immigrants who may not understand the new law, will be targets to authorities who could not possibly identify an immigrant at a second’s glance.

People who praise this law as strict policy will use the probable cause logic to defend the policy. In other words, they will argue no one could possibly fall victim to racial profiling when authorities must have a reason to question the alleged illegal immigrant in the first place.

The first person to be arrested under this Arizona law was a Mexican truck driver, according to Arizona news outlet 3TV. The man, arrested hours after the new law started, is a U.S. citizen. He was arrested for not having the proper paperwork when his truck was checked, although he still provided a Social Security number and a commercial driver’s license.

Arizona lawmakers fail to see the unwritten connotations in this law, or maybe they see them and do not care. People who are Hispanic American or of Mexican descent are targets because of their race. If I drove through Arizona as an African-American, chances are I would not be suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

Is it fair to let people fall victim to profiling to protect the idea of safe borders? If we make our borders safer but intimidating those within our borders, aren’t we defeating the purpose of reform?

It’s time for the federal government to take control of immigration policy before oppressive polices such as Arizona’s law take precedent.

Marchaè Grair is a senior electronic media major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].