Not all Latinos are undocumented persons, and not all undocumented persons are Latinos. Since the United States is a nation in which Latinos comprise the largest ethnic minority, this maxim is especially critical to the equation of justice. Ethnic appearance is not evidence of criminality. It should not be a factor, except in those criminal investigations in which the ethnicity or race of the suspect is paramount. Our nation fought Nazi Germany in great part because of the dictatorial profiling, harassment, and efforts to annihilate the Jewish people. Those horrific experiences should teach any law-abiding and freedom-loving people that policies that authorize local (and federal) police to detain individuals so that the police can see their papers can only be seen as an unreasonable practice which violates civil rights and liberties.
Yet in the year 2012, over thirty-five years after Brignoni-Ponce, complaints of police detentions based on ethnicity or on lack of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity continue. The constitutional rights that are being violated adversely impact not only undocumented persons but also lawful resident aliens and native-born United States citizens. All persons that comprise these three Latino population groups are entitled under the Fourth Amendment to protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Race, Racism and the Law
Vernellia R. Randall
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