Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police officers in Arizona can ask for documentation from anyone they stop if they suspect that they are undocumented immigrants. While three other parts of Senate Bill 1070 were voted down, Arizona governor praised the high court for maintaining the "heart of the legislation."
I am for one thankful that Illinois is not Arizona, but this ruling by the supreme court still scares me. It sets a precedent that other states can create their own harsh laws regarding immigration and it promotes racial profiling. How else will an Arizona police officer know who to ask for documentation?
As a white woman, I will probably never be the target of racial profiling, but I have witnessed first hand the damage it can do to innocent members of our society. For a summer, I worked as an intern for a refugee resettlement agency. The US Department of Homeland Security brings refugees from other countries to the US for their safety and provides them with 6 mos. support, a social security card, and health screenings.
One afternoon, I was driving a Chinese family to the health department for vaccinations. I turned down the wrong street, and I was in a school zone. I got pulled over for speeding. Yes, I was speeding. Yes, I deserved the ticket. On any other day it would have been a routine stop, and I would have driven home pouting about my misfortune. However, this stop was different.
Many refugees come from countries where people in power are the reason they feared for their lives in the first place. This police officer was a frightening reminder of the horrors they faced in their home country. I tried to remain calm to reassure the family that everything was ok. Without speaking their language, I tried to use my body language and tone of voice.
The officers took a different approach to the situation. Instead of issuing me a ticket and moving on with his day, he harassed me about who this family was. Why are they in your car? When did they come to the US? Do you have their documentation? For the first time, I realized what racial profiling really meant; innocent families facing unfair treatment from those that are supposed to protect them.
As we pulled away, the children were trembling and the mother sat silently with tears rolling down her cheeks. The family had been terrorized by the same government that brought them to the US to protect them.
How will we stop this from happening in our states? Why should the Mexican-American soldier who commited 10 years of his life to the Marine Corps be stopped by the police in Arizona and asked for his documentation. I am disappointed with the Supreme Court and the message it has sent to our nation.