May 13, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law and Racial Profiling

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently signed a law that would enact the most stringent immigration policies in the U.S. Nationally, the bill (SB 1070) has generated a lot of emotional response on both sides. On May 1, there were demonstrations by tens of thousands against the bill in several cities including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. Those who decry the bill have called for a boycott of the state; the oldest historically black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, has already moved its annual conference—expected to draw up to 10,000 people— from Phoenix to Las Vegas. Even President Obama has jumped into the fray, referring to the bill as a “mistake”. The immigration debate is not confined to Arizona, and will likely be a hot topic nationally.

What is Arizona Senate Bill 1070? (Click here to read the entire bill.) Simply, the law allows law enforcement to question people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally about their immigration status and makes it a crime to be without immigration documents. SB 1070 also makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. illegally.

What are the major criticisms of the bill? Many worry that it will lead to racial and ethnic profiling of Latinos. What do those who support the bill say? Proponents argue that this bill is the antidote to the violence they claim is correlated with illegal immigration and stress public safety concerns.


Already, Governor Brewer has signed House Bill 2162 which revises HB 1070, (Click here to read the full revision) which according to the governor should address fears about racial and ethnic profiling: Police are restricted from using race or ethnicity as the basis for questioning. According to the Los Angeles Times, Governor Brewer said racial profiling would not be tolerated, and added, “We have to trust our law enforcement.” In addition, the change proposes that police may only ask immigration status questions while enforcing another law; previously a “contact” with police was sufficient cause for questions about immigration status. (It should be noted that the Arizona law mirrors U.S. federal statutes in many of the most discussed areas of the Arizona bill.)

Putting aside our strong feelings about immigration, illegal immigrants, and what the best remedy is, let’s consider only the notion that police are not to use race or ethnicity as a basis for questioning. Granted that the revised bill in Arizona states that it is in enforcing another law that police may inquire about immigration status, but exactly how will police ignore their attitudes about race and ethnicity?

I am not necessarily suspicious that any police officers are more prejudiced than the rest of us, so I would ask the same question of any of us: How do any of us ignore race or ethnicity in our jobs or going about our everyday life? Maybe we are “colorblind” without cues about a person’s race or ethnicity—perhaps interacting by email or telephone, but even in those cases, we may observe subtle cues that suggest race or ethnicity. Knowing that the majority of illegal immigrants in Arizona are from across the border in Mexico, can police ignore that information? Can police ignore race and ethnicity to enforce laws any more than we can in other areas of life?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, examines research about the decisions that we make in the blink of an eye. Like it or not, as Gladwell points out, we all make split second judgments. And those quickly formed judgments and conclusions impact how we respond in a variety of situations. We all know what we’re supposed to think and believe about certain topics such as race and ethnicity. The police should ignore race and ethnicity as a basis for questioning right?

Ask them and I’d bet they would say they do so now and will continue to do so if and when the new bill goes into effect. But as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) illustrates, what we say about race is quite different from what we actually believe: The vast majority of IAT test takers, including African Americans, show a pro-white bias. (Do you want to try it yourself? If so, click here and then proceed to the Race IAT.)

How do you legislate people’s assumptions? Or prevent them from letting their unconscious attitudes impact their behaviors? Can policed be trained to overcome their stereotypes and prejudices—and do so in high stress situations in which they have little time to respond? Research Gladwell cites indicates that both training and experience can alter our thinking—even our unconscious thoughts so that is hopeful; pretending that we don’t all have biases—even ones that we don’t think we have—is not.


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Great Post, thanks.

I believe that people already display racial and ethnic profiling and this law will not cause it because it is already happening. I do not feel any discrimination towards Latinos, I believe that everyone is an equal. It is the illegal immigrants that are causing people to racially profile Latinos. It is the job of the law enforcement to ensure that immigrants are here legally. I do not feel that it is wrong for authority to question peoples ethnicity or documentation of legality. I feel that it is a necessity to ensure that all immigrants are here legally. If people are going to use our resources and tax-payers money, they should be doing it legally and have to pay the taxes also.

I have to agree with what Manny said, racial profiling for those of latino heritage is caused because of illegal immigrants, yes there probably will be some mistakes if this bill is passed when questioning people who have proper immigration papers, but i do not believe that it will cause any more discrimination than there already is today.

I think they are IDIOTS, ARIZONA should be boycotted. To have Brewer and Palin together is not a good thing. Two wrong people do not make a right.

This law is like a bad doctor that cuts the hand that hurts instead of treating it!

I enjoyed this post. However, It makes me really wonder whether or not police officers can actually be trusted to not stop and question someone simply because of their racial and facial features. They say that we must trust our officers not to do this; but how can we really tell. It's a tough thing to believe and definitely something to speculate about.

I couldn’t believe all the misconceptions of this new law. I will admit at first I thought to myself ‘wow how can this happen’. After reading this column, I understand that the law is not trying to promote racial profiling. Illegal immigration is a serious problem and I think a law like this is the only thing that is going to help the problem. Most people carry driver’s licenses and ID wherever they go why is it such a big deal for legal immigrants to carry their papers? Whenever I travel somewhere, I always take my passport and necessary travel visas everywhere I go.

This law, whether people like it or not, will cause racial profiling, no matter how people look at it. If an officer in arizona sees someone of hispanic descent driving, and someone of caucasian descent driving, who do you think they will pull over? It's not the hispanics fault, its the racial profiling to blame. This bill does not give instructions for "reasonable cause" for pulling someone over, so what determines that?

C. I believe that everyone already is racist and that this law does not create people to become racist. But it does allow people to discriminate against each other which is not good. The bill does not clarify why someone can be pulled over or checked. It simply says that it is up to the law enforcers. Well every police officer might have a different intake on who looks suspicious. The law is not specific enough and leaves too much room for bad human error and judgment.

I’m not sure if this new law will change the racial profiling part. If someone gets pulled over the cops could ask for proof of citizenship and if they fail to have a driver’s license, they would get deported. And this also makes a political statement that Arizona isn’t supporting illegal immigration. But other than that, nothing stops profiling, all they can do is fire cops that do and hire new ones in higher hopes.
According to my sociology book, racial profiling is defined as “any arbitrary action initiated by an authority based on race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on a person’s behavior” and fits the conflict perspective (Schaefer, 2009). We talked about racial profiling generally takes place when officers of the law assume people of a certain race or ethnicity are more likely to take place in illegal activity. The biggest example of racial profiling was probably right after September 11, 2001.

Your article is very impressive. Cheers!.

I just have to say some people can be ignorant. Hasn't America been fighting for equal rights for so many years. The truth is that it's all a lie. There is no such thing as equality. Why do we have to discriminate against people who come to America to look for a better future? I have heard In News and everywhere that illegal immigration should be stopped. Here's the catchy point. Why do illegal immigrants have to be portrayed as the Latinos (Mexicans) as everyone calls them. There's racial profiling going around here. Some people say Mexicans have come to invade and take Americans Job. The funny thing is that These Immigrants are only taking those jobs that many Americans are not willing to take. Jobs on the fields.. Many of them don't speak English .. so people think they can take advantage of them.

I think the bill that was passed in Arizona, just made things worst because now the illegal people are scared to even go to their job. When they go to work on the field they are the only ones that know how to get the job done. I think many Americans think that they can just use the lations in any way they wish.

Everyone is racist and critical in their own way. You cant "train" police to think a certain way. That woul dbe unfair treatment. Stereotyping cant be helped. It has been inbedded in our lifestyle for too long, a bill wont change America's way of thinking, no matter how cruel that way is.

i believe there should be more liniency in US laws for foreigners as they are supporting the economy big time, a few days back there was a poll on one of the leading newspaper's online page and i remember the turn out was 76% votes were in favor of the law for allowing the foreigners to get temporary stay in the US.

By requiring local law enforcement to arrest a person when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally, Arizona lawmakers have created a system that guarantees racial profiling.

Why is there a need of racial profiling? The title itself suggests one thing, that is racial discrimination! That I am so against.

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According to my sociology book, racial profiling is defined as “any arbitrary action initiated by an authority based on race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than on a person’s behavior” and fits the conflict perspective (Schaefer, 2009). We talked about racial profiling generally takes place when officers of the law assume people of a certain race or ethnicity are more likely to take place in illegal activity. The biggest example of racial profiling was probably right after September 11, 2001.

This Law in itself not justified.. I would believe that this can be and have been reported till so far being misused by law enforcement team. This give additional power to law enforcement to withhold anyone.

Superb post and even great help and advice! This blog post is very effective and used by us. Thanks for expression valuable tips.

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