Tuesday, May 11, 2021


Article Index

B. The Impact of Racial Profiling on America's Latino Population

Racial profiling of Latinos occurs today, and it has occurred well before Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070) appeared in April 2010. In fact, profiling of Mexicans dating back to the early years of the twentieth century has been documented extensively by historians and others. The Mexican identity problem even led to hate crimes in Patchogue, New York, a quiet Long Island suburb, where some misguided local youth went out on the town with the stated purpose of finding Mexicans to beat up. African Americans and other identifiable minorities have also been subjected to these dangerous and sometimes fatal attacks and to humiliating detentions and interrogations over the years.

Recently, our nation's Department of Justice asked the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals to stay a lower court's order upholding parts of an Alabama immigration statute, which seeks to protect local communities from the alien influx. In its emergency motion for a temporary injunction, the Obama administration argued that the new state law invites discrimination against many foreign-born citizens and lawfully present aliens. The nation's official advocates engaged in a major blunder in their pleadings by overlooking American-born citizen victims who have been and will continue to be adversely impacted by this extremely degrading profiling. We only need to consider the 2010 deportation of a United States citizen.

Two of the many provisions of Arizona's SB 1070 require that an officer: (1) make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present in the United States; and (2) requires the officer to verify the immigration status of any person arrested prior to releasing that person. The requirement to investigate a person's status upon suspicion that they are illegal has contributed to the national debate over racial profiling. Entitled the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, the Arizona statute clearly dictates a state policy of attrition through enforcement among all state and local government agencies in Arizona.

Examples of Latino racial profiling are quite revealing. Arizona has been a site of several notorious cases of discrimination. Judge Jose Padilla, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge, has been questioned twice since he became a judge in 2006. The interrogations were prompted by no other apparent reason than his Latino appearance. He never informed the officer of his work nor received a ticket for the alleged violations. However, he did complain to the police department involved. These incidents occurred even though the state of Arizona had settled a lawsuit against police officers in 2006 where the proof indicated that vehicles driven by Latinos and Blacks were significantly more likely to be searched than those driven by Whites.

Another dreadful example involves Chandler, Arizona and their local police cooperation with the Tucson Border Patrol Sector in July 1997. The so-called Chandler Roundup operation resulted in many civil rights complaints that epitomize racial insults Mexican Americans and legal residents experience during immigration raids. The constitutional basis for police encounters with individuals should concentrate on the identification of specific illegal behavior that allows a reasonable suspicion temporary detention or a probable cause seizure. Instead, in Chandler the Mexicanness of an individual provided the justification for the police stops and the subsequent questioning as to status. The following excerpt provides an indication of the humiliation experienced by Latinos:

Public outrage focused on the selective discriminatory law enforcement summarized in the following quote, They were looking for dark-skinned workers speaking Spanish.Media coverage uncovered numerous incidents of Mexican Americans and legal residents who were harassed and intimidated during the joint operation. For instance, Venecia Zavala was approached by an officer and asked for proof of citizenship while she was walking to her car after shopping at a Chandler supermarket. Celso Vazquez, a Mexican national and a legal U.S. resident, was driving in the same area when a Chandler officer pulled him over and asked for his papers. The encounter concluded when he showed his title and registration. Juan Gonzales was asked to show proof of citizenship while he was pumping gas into his car alongside an Anglo couple who were not questioned by police. A lot of my white friends have been in this country as long as I have. So how come I'm treated differently? . . . How come I have to prove I'm a U.S. citizen? That's just not right.

Additional proof that Mexican appearance became the criminal behavior for the stops in Chandler centered on the computer-printed Record of Deportable Alien form that was used by immigration agents in which the words Mexico and/or Mexican had already been typed in the boxes requiring information.

After the Attorney General's investigative report, the City of Chandler issued a report which analyzed complaints made by seventy-one Latinos. Of the forty-one stops that recorded citizenship status, eleven were U.S. citizens of Mexican ancestry, fifteen were Latino legal residents, one was a permanent resident, three had work permits, one had a green card, and eleven were undocumented. In other words, 73 percent of these recorded stops involved persons entitled to be in the United States.

The Chandler Police Chief defended his policing tactics during the five-day raid by asserting that the procedures were no different than everyday experiences of all U.S. citizens crossing the border. After all, the chief added, Every time you go to San Diego, they stop you and ask you if you're a U.S. citizen. Is it a violation to ask a person if they're a U.S. citizen? I don't think so. The chief unfortunately disregards the obvious in trying to justify illegal actions: Chandler is 120 miles away from the border! The City of Chandler eventually settled a lawsuit arising from this illegal activity.

A final Arizona example involves the unreasonable seizure case of Julio and Julian Mora by Maricopa County Sheriff's Department officers. Julio Mora, an American citizen, and Julian Mora, his father, a thirty-year resident alien, were detained on suspicion of undocumented status and fraudulent documents. According to the ACLU, Julian Mora was driving to work when, without provocation, a police vehicle from Arpaio's agency cut in front of him and forced an abrupt stop. The complaint claims:

Although the deputies had no reason to believe that the Moras had broken any law or were in the country unlawfully, they transported the Moras to Handyman Maintenance, Inc. (HMI), where MCSO was conducting a raid that morning. For the next three hours, the Moras were held at HMI, where they were denied food and water and forbidden contact with the outside world. They were not released until they were interrogated.

In April 2011, the federal district court granted Mora's summary judgment motion in part with respect to the Fourth Amendment claim asserted as to the County's liability under the Civil Rights Act for the unconstitutional stop and arrest of the Moras. In July 2011, Maricopa County bailed out and settled with the Moras.

Arizona does not possess a monopoly on racial profiling and discriminatory treatment. Other regions of the country contribute to despicable profiling. Even a person of the stature of a Nick Valencia, a national news desk editor and former head of the CNN Spanish Desk, can be singled out by certain Americans for anti-Latino discriminatory treatment. While attending a musical festival in Atlanta, Georgia, Valencia met a group of visitors from Mexico City. He began speaking Spanish with them. He then heard an Anglo woman tell him to go home, adding Vete in Spanish, perhaps in case he did not understand English. Obviously offended, Valencia later reflected over this incident:

My Mexican friends remind me that I am American first, Mexican second and that my English is better than my Spanish. Yes, I tell them. But I can never walk into a room and be white.Evidently, to some the brown color of my skin means I'm not even American. My friends and family tell me what I experienced that night is a microcosm of what is happening to Latinos across the country. You don't have to look hard to find it. In news stories, in political discourse, on talk radio, in everyday conversation it seems it has become OK to treat Latinos in a negative and antagonistic way-whether they are new immigrants or longtime Americans. The anti-immigration legislation sweeping across the United States has made this plain.

In June 2010, teenager Luis Alberto Delgado, an American citizen born in Houston, was detained by a South Texas deputy sheriff and handed over to a U.S. Border Patrol agent after a traffic stop. Delgado has a limitation in English since he moved to Mexico when he was a youngster after his mother divorced his father. During the stop, he produced an American birth certificate and a Social Security card, but the federal agent accused him of producing false documents. After lengthy questioning over several hours, where Delgado kept asking to be taken before a judge, Delgado relented and signed the agent's paperwork as a means of finding some other approach to his dilemma of facing an incredulous investigator. He remained in his deported status for nearly three months before immigration officials finally allowed his return.

Puerto Rican Americans, legislatively declared citizens regardless of birth in Puerto Rico, also suffer at the hands of immigration authorities who operate on suppositions as opposed to facts. In Chicago, Illinois, Eduardo Caraballo spent three days in jail when he was arrested as a suspect in the theft of a vehicle. He was able to make bail promptly, but his immigration problems then began. He faced deportation on suspicion of being in the country without authority. Similar to the speculations engaged in by federal agents with Luis Alberto Delgado in Texas, the agents developed doubts about Caraballo by asking him specific questions about Puerto Rico that he could not answer to their satisfaction. His inability to answer them was based on the fact that Caraballo was brought by his mother to the mainland United States when he was eight months old, and he travelled only once to Puerto Rico.

Luis Gutierrez, Member of Congress from Chicago, stated:

You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they're legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they're an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen.

. . . .

. . . [Immigration agents] can't just judge people by their color or their features, by the way they look, they should actually investigate thoroughly, and they should do that before they put the hold on somebody.

How many more Americans have to suffer from incompetent or callous agents? Why do Latinos in general and dark-skinned people have to suffer unreasonable seizures, which the Fourth Amendment ostensibly prohibits?