Saturday, May 08, 2010

Papers, please.

A not too hard to imagine scenario.

So I was bicycling down the street in some little backwater town when a local cop came up behind me and turned on his lights and siren. I pulled over at the next place it was safe to stop, in this case a convenience store parking lot. The officer got out of his car and asked for my identification. I gave him my work ID since I don't have a drivers license. He wasn't happy about that.

"Don't you have some form of government issued ID?" he asked.

"Sure, I have a passport at home, but I never carry that, and besides, it's expired. I have a library card, though." He looked exasperated at that last bit.

"I stopped you because you're impeding traffic by riding your bicycle at only 15 miles per hour. I'm going to cite you for that, and you'll be going to jail at least overnight. But you may be held for several days until we get your immigration status sorted out. You may want to think about that if you ride through here again."

Fortunately, the above scenario exists only in my over-active imagination, but it doesn't take much to imagine it happening to someone, somewhere, sometime in the near future. Laws like Arizona's "papers please" statute will be used in ways that were never intended.

We know that police need probable cause to detain or search our persons, vehicles, or homes. If you appear to be intoxicated, you can be arrested. If you're running away from a grocery store robbery wearing a ski mask, it's enough to stop and question you. But in Arizona, the probable cause for a stop and subsequent questioning is nothing more than your skin color. Speaking with an accent is not going to be helpful, either.

Make no mistake, being in the United States illegally is a crime and people should expect to be deported if they're caught. But skin color or accented speech are not probable cause - except in Arizona. My grandparents, for instance, spoke in accented English all their lives as did many people in their social circle. They immigrated here from eastern Europe and English was their second language. Should such people be fearful anytime they leave the house because any passing police officer could stop and question them based on how they look or how they speak?

The state of Arizona and those public officials who promoted this law are receiving a well-deserved ration of scorn and public condemnation. They richly deserve it. And I'm happy to add my voice in opposition to their unjust, un-American actions.

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Blogger Rodney said...

Arizona is doing what the USA has failed to do. While this may not be the best way, a start has to be made.

You said being illegal is a crime. Perhaps those you sympathize with should do as your relatives did. I can only presume they (your relatives) were properly and legally processed and then worked very hard to make a life ON THEIR OWN, without burdening our country's government with such fraudulence.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

And Rodney, you missed the point. Ethnicity does not constitute probable cause. Using that as a basis for stopping and questioning people is both unjust and un-American. We're better than that, or at least we should be.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Rodney said...

I got your point, and that of many others. Unfortunately, the geography of the area and the demographics of the Arizona populace dictate that a certain "skin color" is more prevalent.

Ask your random guy on the street what an illegal alien is and the vast majority of respondents will say Mexican. My wife worked with an "illegal" gentleman from Ireland. Once found out, he departed to who knows where.

I agree that skin color alone should NOT be a deciding factor for stopping and questioning. Heck, when I lived in Miami, everyone thought I was a Cuban. The Latin/Hispanic culture is a rude and bigoted people.

This I found to be personally true, especially in the older generations that came to our country. (Miami/S. Florida area) I hope this mess gets sorted out. God Bless and have a great day!

11:54 PM  
Blogger Big Clyde said...

I think that Ed makes some good points. Providing for so many non-tax-paying illegal immigrants is a problem for all Americans, but it is a HUGE problem for those of us living in AZ. It affects our schools and all other civic resources.

I don't know if this is the right solution, but I know that something has to be done to get some progress made. I also believe that those of us who see the issue in our own neighborhoods might see it differently than others who watch it on the news.

3:52 PM  

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