Arizona Immigration Law Requires Police to Racially Profile

Over at DailyKos Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach makes some very important points about the vague language in the new Arizona law, which says a police officer in “any lawful contact” with people can investigate if they are immigrants here if he or she has a “reasonable suspicion” about that matter.

The key of course is these vague terms, which Leach argues well means police must do racial profiling:

“Any lawful contact” is such a breathtakingly broad standard it could mean literally any contact. It need not require suspicion that said person has committed a crime. It could be ascertaining if that person is a witness to a crime he is not suspected of. It could be simply asking the person to move out of the way if he’s standing in the wrong place. Once that contact is made, the police may request immigration documents based on “reasonable suspicion” of illegality.

OK, then how would a police officer have such a reasonable suspicion. What would the criteria be? Well, they have to be centrally about race:

Very few people wear “Kiss me, I’m illegal” T-shirts or spontaneously blurt out “You got me, I’m undocumented!” So what does an illegal immigrant look like? What would cause a police officer to interact with two people, and decide one person is worthy of further investigation and one is not? There is only one answer, race. Think of it this way. Two guys get into a fight while playing baseball. The police are called to break it up. Neither has ID. One is a Caucasian named Thomas Stevens who has no discernable accent. The other is a brown skinned man named Jose Figueroa who has a slight Hispanic accent. That’s all the officer knows. Which one of these men do you suppose will be detained for further investigation into his immigration status?

Presumably, the white conservative legislators know this is exactly what they have now forced Arizona police to do—violate U.S. civil rights laws by doing discriminating on the basis of race. I wonder how hard this one will be to knock down in U.S. courts?

And then there is their general ignorance of immigration, immigrants, and how the economy of Arizona runs on immigration–points underscored recently by distinguished Latino scholars.