Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Supreme Court ~Sort of ~ Rules Against Arizona's SB 1070

Although the United States Supreme Court questioned parts of the controversial Arizona SB 1070 law that allows police to stop anyone who looks foreign and question their status, it upheld that part of the law with the most bite, which is the section known as “show me your papers."

Show me your papers
I grew up in what was the burgeoning municipality of Burnaby, just outside Vancouver, British Columbia. Not yet incorporated as a city, it was at the time, Canada's largest Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment, and a place where young officers cut their chops, so to speak.

My problems with the police began when I was thirteen. Let me make this abundantly clear, there was no reason for the harassment. I have never so much as stolen a candy bar.

I remember well my first police interrogation. The young officers stopped their car.

"Where are you going?"

"To my friend Judy's house."

"What's your name?"


"Can I see some identification please?"

"I don't have any."

Now, I ask you, what thirteen-year-old goes down the street to their friend’s house carrying identification?

During the next few years I was stopped several times without probable cause. In retrospect, I think the young officers in training were practicing their skills of inquiry on innocent community youth. And so, I know a little bit about "show me your papers," the Arizona law the U.S. Supreme Court let stand. It isn't fun to be regularly stopped, asked a lot of questions, and struggle not to say, none of your business.

Although I understand the desperation that drives people to illegally cross borders, I can see the other side as well; a country can only absorb so many newcomers at a time. Borders cannot be totally free and open because infrastructures cannot support mass entry, in the case of Arizona it can only absorb so many Latin Americans each year. I have no opinion on American immigration quotas.

The New York Times reports

"In its opinion on Monday, the court struck down three parts of the controversial law but let stand a core “show me your papers” provision, which requires the police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop if they suspect the person is an illegal immigrant."

Legal rights groups maintain the police will decide to stop people who look "foreign."  To look "foreign" in Arizona more than likely means to look Latino. (By the way, by the time I was in my twenties the RCMP no longer stopped me for questioning. They were targeting youth.)

At first I didn't have an opinion regarding the Arizona law, similar laws are on the books of Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah, then I remembered my experiences with the RCMP.

If this law, and laws like it, stand Latinos of all stripes will be hassled. Those hassled need to walk a thin line between asserting their rights and yet not telling off a cop, and risking arrest. Been there, done that, and its no fun.

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