SHELIA NJAU ’17
As of this year, there are over 11.3 million undocumented immigrants who reside in this country. Various states have sought ways to bring down this number, among them is the contentious Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act that was passed in Arizona in 2010. Based on this law, it is a misdemeanor crime for an immigrant to live in Arizona without the proper documents and the act also gives police officers the authority to stop someone in what is called a “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” when they suspect that the individual is an illegal immigrant. This bill, however, brought issues of racial profiling to the forefront because the question arose of how the officers would know who to suspect of being an illegal immigrant.
In 2006, before this law was enacted in Arizona, a case of racial profiling occurred in Danbury, Conn. In this instance, an agent posed as a contractor looking for laborers, but instead of giving them work as they had expected, the agent took them to more ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents to be detained. These laborers, eleven Ecuadorian men, have been in deportation proceedings since that fateful day. In their defense, they state that they were targeted by ICE because they looked Latino. This past August, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the appeal of these eleven laborers in a 2 to 1 vote. For the judge who had the dissenting vote, he agreed with the men in that the Fourth Amendment was violated due to the fact that they were picked up by the agent based on the fact that they were laborers who happened to look Hispanic. These men are currently seeking an appeal.
Immigration is not an easy topic to handle; it is one fraught with many issues. On the one hand, many of the people who immigrate here illegally do so because they are simply trying to find a better life for themselves and for their families. On the other hand, by doing so, they are breaking the law. And yet, what is the solution? Clearly not Arizona’s law, which causes discrimination based on skin color, which I think is a good argument for those eleven men who were misled in Danbury. It is one thing if the men were arrested because they could not provide documentation, but another to seek out people to arrest based solely on the fact that they were looking for work and happened to look Latino. The part that I find the worst is that there is a misconception about Latinos being the only ones who immigrate here illegally. The truth is people immigrate here from all over the world, it just so happens that crossing the border is publicized more. This leads to illegal immigration being tied to people who are of Latino descent. What about the people who are here legally and happen to be Latino? What about their rights? I find it a crime that their rights get curtailed because of this. So what happens now?
Personally, I find fault with the Congress. I think that they should just make a decision. Whether they decide to give amnesty or not, the time has come for them to pass a bill to handle this issue of immigration instead of leaving states to take matters into their own hands and come up with laws such as Arizona did. I find it disappointing that when one section of Congress takes action, the other decides against it. No one should live in this country scared that they will be stopped because of their skin color. I would find it degrading if a police officer were to stop me and ask me if I had the proper immigration documents based on how I looked. The last massive immigration bill was passed decades ago in 1986. And what I think is worse is how some people are angry with President Obama for making executive decisions. Instead of anger and words being thrown around, where are the actions to back up these words?
The U.S is the land of the free, but that is not the case when people have to live in fear. With the current shift of power in Congress, I am unsure what will happen, but there needs to be some kind of resolution. Do I think that everybody who does not have the proper documentation should be told to leave, no questions asked? No, but some middle ground has to be reached and it needs to be reached soon. I sincerely hope that this coming year is one of change, that it is one of progress. I hope that the day comes when someone does not assume that one is an illegal immigrant based on their looks. I hope that a solution to the immigration issue is found.