The Supreme Court Upholds Racial Profiling In Arizona

Back in April 2010, I blogged about my dismay at Arizona’s decision to enact a racially motivated immigration policy, SB 1070, which targeted illegal immigrants for the wrong reasons, instead of leading the way on true immigration reform:

Arizona could’ve put into place a law to go after the companies. They could’ve encouraged citizens to turn in their landscaping company instead of the officer who isn’t harassing enough Hispanics walking down their street. And Arizona could’ve provided grants and loans to businesses. These would offset the cost of raising pay to minimum wage and providing benefits. But only if the companies would actually go under if they had to, you know, DO THE RIGHT THING by their workers. (Yes. It’s a bailout. But probably cheaper than teaching officers how to not do RACIAL PROFILING while doing RACIAL PROFILING. And it’s almost definitely cheaper than lawsuits.)

Although I am an advocate for amnesty because I believe that people, who have come to our country to contribute and create better lives, deserve to stay and be recognized, I understand that some people can’t let go of the word ILLEGAL. Well, what if after enacting this anti-corporations-using-illegal-immigrants bill, Arizona places advertisements around town to see how many of these jobs at the fair wage are filled? Arizona could’ve been the testing ground. And let the people in this country, who think illegal immigrants are destroying our economy, know: Look. We don’t have people to do these jobs. That was just smoke and mirrors for hate. Let’s grant amnesty to the hard working [illegal immigrants]. If only for the sake of our economy.

Well, those lawsuits finally made their way to the Supreme Court and a ruling came down this week. Although the justices gutted most of the Arizona immigration bill by striking down the statue making it a state crime to be in United States without proper authorization, a state crime for an undocumented worker to apply for a job or to work in Arizona, and by ruling it is unconstitutional for law enforcement to arrest without a warrant a person in the country legally but who the police believe committed a deportable offense. (source)

However, the court upheld law enforcement’s right to ask for proper documentation from anyone thought to be an illegal immigrant. In other words, the court legalized racial profiling.

We don’t need the help. (source)

Take a moment and think honestly: What does an illegal immigrant look like? What does an illegal immigrant sound like? Walk like? Dress like? Act like?

Oh really? Because I think we profiled a few friends of mine who are American citizens.

What would it feel like to have officers demand papers every time I walked by or got a speeding ticket or went to work because I looked a certain way or had a foreign sounding last name?

I already have a married last name that gets a “tone” from some people. An uncomfortable laugh. I can’t even imagine if the police showed up during those moments. Our last name is Iwashyna (ee-vah-shen-ah). My husband has no accent. He’s first generation born in the U.S.. But people read his name and think and wonder. What if they could act on their prejudice? What if it was Hispanic instead of Ukrainian? What if we were blaming former Eastern Bloc immigrants for our economic woes?

I would feel demoralized and afraid. Even if I hadn’t done anything wrong, I would dread saying my name.

I know that our Supreme Court has upheld ideas in the past, which are not what our founding fathers envisioned, but I find codifying racial profiling abhorrent. Our liberties as citizens should be more important than catching a few extra illegal immigrants.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

9 thoughts to “The Supreme Court Upholds Racial Profiling In Arizona”

  1. This is a topic that I have a tough time on. I really just want everyone to pay taxes…because I’m notoriously fiscally conservative and just additional towards a balanced budget. But when it comes down to it, Wesley Snipes not paying taxes bothers me a whole lot more than others not paying.

    And: Dammit, I thought I was pronouncing your last name right this whole time. Forgot, W is a V.

    1. If we had a path to amnesty, they would pay taxes. Right now, we’ll just creating second class citizens with little rights and making legal residents targets. I also think if we have to go after someone, why not the companies employing people illegally?

      PS. My last name is REALLY hard.

  2. You put all of this into words far better than my child-overwhelmed, under-caffeinated brain could manage, & with graphs to boot (colorful–yay!). I am as Caucasian as they come: pale, blonde hair, a racial “mutt” from many European ancestors. My brother, however, was yielded from the other end of the gene pool, apparently. We have the same parents, yet he has dark hair and skin that actually produces melanin. In the summer when he is very tan, he is easily & constantly mistaken as having Hispanic ancestry, and he has on more than one occasion been racially profiled. I was pulled over because my taillight was out, unbeknownst to me, but I was sent on my way with a wave and a smile. Two months later, he was pulled over for the same issue. He and his vehicle were searched and he was sent off with the opposite of a wave & a smile (read: he was condescendingly asked if he was a legal citizen). I was gobsmacked. That was when he told me this was not the first time something similar had happened. Thank you for putting this post up to keep people aware of what’s happening in our country.
    (As a completely unrelated aside… I just stumbled across your blog and I love it. We parent in very similar ways. Two of my boys went through the Dead phase. I have no girls, but I have lots of boys who teach each other how to push my buttons. Gotta love ’em.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. It’s so helpful for others to read about these personal experiences. It changes more minds than charts could even very colorful ones 🙂

      PS. I’m so happy to find another parent like me. I had another “dead” conversation that I need to blog about and now I know at least one person will get it.

  3. At first I felt strongly that people were breaking rules and should be deported and “how dare they try to come in illegal”. And then my eyes were opened to the kids that were legal citizens losing their parents and the mounds of paperwork that had to be filled out and if one thing was wrong it was sent back to be redone without saying which part was wrong and I realized that there’s no way immigrants could get or even afford attorneys to do that and read stories how teachers were then told to question kids in their own classroom about their families and immigration status and now this. There is NO WAY this makes sense to me. Amnesty truly seems to make the most sense. I am all for protecting our boarders but there has GOT to be a better way than what is happening in Arizona. There are too many parallels to past issues that have NOT ended well, right?!

    1. I think it’s a complicated issue that we could’ve done better with years ago so it would be easier to just understand legal versus illegal. As you pointed out, today it’s just not as simple anymore with children and money involved. And while I, too, think we have the right to control immigration into our country, I agree that AZ is NOT leading the way.

  4. I live in New Mexico and people who were born here or came here legally get harrassed all the time simply because of their skin color. We have Border Patrol stops on the highway that we have to go through on a daily basis where we can be searched on a whim. I’m white, have no accent and am a legal U.S. citizen and I have been searched. It can be done completely on a whim so imagine how much more of this is going to happen to people with brown skin, accents, and funny last names, especially now that it is legal to do so? I don’t know what AZ is like, but the police here are not well trained and do illegal things all of the time. It is very frightening to see what can be done to poor people under “the law” because they don’t have the money to hire a lawyer and get justice for themselves or make enough noise so people will start paying attention. It’s so frustrating and so wrong. From what I understand the Supreme Court won’t get rid of this part of the law because they first need to see if it will be abused or if it won’t be. Once people are abused by the law and sue the government then the Supreme Court will rule on whether it is constitutional or not. It reminds me of spousal abuse and battery. Someone has to be beaten and almost killed for anything to actually happen to the abuser. Until something bad enough happens you just have to sit, wait, and endure.

    I can’t help but think that the only reason they made it not illegal for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job is because well, they still want to take advantage of all of that cheap labor. Some people aren’t going to get rich if they have to pay their workers a fair wage. The same rich people complaining about illegal immigrants coming into out country are the ones hiring them as house cleaners, nanny’s, farm laborer’s and construction workers. They don’t want to lose their work force, right? At the same time they want to appear to be tough on immigration.

    I am rambling a bit mostly because I am frustrated. These rulings will directly affect people I love and care about. They also make me feel ashamed. I want something better and feel so helpless to get it.

    1. Thanks for your rambling. I think it’s terrifying how much power and confusion there is around check points and papers and profiling and police. We have already waded into dangerous territory — I hope that the national publicity around AZ makes it more obvious that we are heading in the wrong direction. I also didn’t realize that until the law is abused, the SCOTUS didn’t take a stand either way so thank you for that clarification.

  5. This is SUCH a big issue around here (yes, in Michigan). We have a HUGE population of migrant workers for working in our fields and such. We have discussions ALL THE TIME in class about legal vs illegal and all the laws and such. My students are DUMBFOUNDED when I tell them there is virtually NO road to becoming a legal citizen anymore. They still think there is an Ellis Island.

    I wish I was kidding.

    We can’t talk immigration without them thinking A) illegals from Mexico or B) back to the 1800’s/turn of the century European immigrants.

    That is all they know.

    Except for those who are illegal. THEY KNOW. all too well.

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