Monday, February 06, 2006

Papers Please


While sharking a parking spot this morning, I caught KQED's California Report. This morning, the report focused on new efforts in Orange County to employ local police in immigration enforcement.

Some are understandably concerned about this. Check the link above later to see if the show is available online (it wasn't yet as of this posting)[Update: here it is].

Foreseeably, MAPA, MALDEF, and others argue that such a broadening of enforcement would have a detrimental impact on the value of community policing and would lead to racial-profiling. On the other side of the debate, those fine patriots who've taken border patrol into their own hands, the Minutemen, and the Orange County sheriff. The sheriff says the program - which would, if I am remembering the story correctly (please listen to it and fact check me when it's up), is available to local jurisdictions under existing ICE law/regulation, would mean OC law enforcement would merely focus on getting repeat offenders out of the country - those who come here, do bad things, and keep coming back for more.

So, what do you do when you pull someone over, they aren't a repeat offender, they have no criminal record, but they're here illegally? Let them go until they do commit a crime? Put them on a watch list. Stick them on a cattle car and drop them off on the other side of the border, just like in the good old days?

And to avoid charges of profiling, wouldn't the city attorney or county counsel in any jurisdiction demand the citizenship checks be conducted ministerially, with no measure of discretion, on every suspect/everyone in the jurisdiction?

How could you not?

As it turns out, for at least part of the time he was here, my boyfriend should not have been - unbeknownst to both of us. Had he been pulled over, what then? Of course, he has no criminal record, but how could you write an enforcement policy that tells local cops to let go people who shouldn't be here? That would make those Minutemen pretty upset wouldn't it? Might seem a bit hypocritical, no?

I've only just obtained a passport. I don't carry it with me on a daily basis. What happens to me? Lucky for me, my ethnicity shows up in print and not so much on my pale skin, but what if I were browner? Oh wait, there's no profiling, so I guess, well, yikes, who knows.

Does anyone think this is, perhaps, a bad idea? A really, really bad idea? An unconscionably bad, unamerican, that-sound-you-hear-is-the-Founding-Fathers-spinning-in-their-graves bad?

I hate slippery-slope alarmism, but that cuts both ways here, doesn't it? Costa Mesa has won the dubious distinction of becoming the first place to employ local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. You can tailor a carefully worded policy. You can direct the ICE-cops to look only at the worst offenders. But eventually, you're going to face the easily foreseeable issues at the bottom of the slippery slope.

One opponent to the plan said that programs such as this have been attempted before, but without "the Twin Towers as their big fig leaf." How sadly true is that statement . . . .

I'm going to read up on the issue more - but I encourage you to check the California Report site and listen for yourself - and keep listening this week (check local affiliate for times) as the series continues [correction: I believe the series continues weekly, so check next Monday].

I think it may be time to refocus on immigration law. I didn't think an area of law would become more personal to me than election law, but that seems like a hobby now. Immigration law - that's lives.


Anonymous said...

I ask this question with all seriousness: what is so wrong with profiling, racial or otherwise? It seems like a legitimate use of reason and limited resources to me. If our primary concerns are with illegal immigrants from Mexico, or the threat of Islamic terrorists (coming in via Mexico or anywhere else), why not profile?

And it seems to me that prudence is the highly undervalued element of the equation with respect to enforcement. Politics - precisely because it does deal with real lives and unique circumstances - cannot be effected adequately or justly simply through formulas. Laws are applied to individuals, and enforced by individuals - and the individual enforcing the law must exercise his or her judgement.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you want to talk conserving limited resources: how can you profile to screen for illegal immigrants (and we know they mean Mexicans) in Southern California? Have you been outside lately, pretty large population of profile-able people out there.

As for screening for Islamic terrorists - as far as a visual scan of a crowd would lead to netting of the right kind of targets (and there's much out-group bias that mucks that up) it would be a slighly more logical, honest application of profiling.

Zero profiling is as imprudent as wide-spread profiling, yes, there are going to be people with more indications of risk than others. I don't think broadly enforced rules make sense (exhibit A: boyfriend, mine).

But conflating Southern California's immigration and border control issues with the kinds of boogeyman national security issues that give rise to increased protectionism is WAY stupid.

Mexicans/central Americans taking all our high-demand strawberry picking jobs does NOT demand the same kind of zero-tolerance response as people sneaking in with nukes, now does it?

They aren't screening for terrorists in the OC. They're getting rid of the brown blight that threatens their hard-hewn enclaves.

And if we slather that in national security, well then, don't we all just feel better.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with profiling? As someone who's been repeatedly stopped "because I fit the profile," I say everything's wrong with it. I despise such profiling policies or those that condone the unwritten profiling conduct of law enforcement.

As it has in me, profiling creates animosity and anger. How many Muslims detained in the US and abroad view their government(if in the US) the same after such direct or veiled accusations of wrongdoing or complicity with 9/11? Not many, I suspect.

Study after study has shown that when profiling occurs it results in vastly more innocent people being caught up than the few numbers of actual wrongdoers.

Officers have callously told me "I stopped you because you looked suspicious." I've been taken out of my car, at gunpoint, frisked, passengers frisked, and then later told basically the same thing. This has occured while I've been my hometown in So. Cal., in nice neighborhoods, in poor neighborhoods, while I was in college, and while I was in law school. Did my shaved head fit the profile? My late model American car? What about when I didn't have a shaved head or the Monte Carlo? What justified it then? Just my brown skin and that of my friends.

Not only are those experiences frightening knowing that one slip of the finger from an anxious cop means I'm history at worst or that I could wind up in jail for nothing (and also knowing that there wasn't video being taped of the encounters), they are profoundly dehumanizing. Completely helpless knowing you've done absolutely nothing wrong. Completely subject to the whims of a cop who you hoped hadn't just had an argument with a spouse or a bad day with others on his/her beat.

The Kolt Commission (similar to the Christopher Commission) back in the 1990s looked at Sheriff Department policies and how they translated into an increased likelihood of reinforcing a law enforcement culture that viewed all minorities with suspicion and as criminals. It wasn't a trait shared by white cops only and minority cops quickly adopted those views as well (as verified by my own experiences as well).

Frankly, I'm tired of being profiled and I don't want my kids profiled either. How many people did DHS profile and detain in last summer's raids? Thousands. How many arrests? A miniscule amount.

Also, I'm not about to trust a cop (a few of whom are family members)that has who knows how much of an education, and trust them to discern all of the variations in immigration status that aren't reflected on a license or a visa or the DHS' admittedly backlogged, out of date systems. Hell no.

Right now, Congress, knowing how complicated these matters are, requires a complete training program and detailed instruction before any local law enforcement agent can legally enforce federal laws (which they can't enforce otherwise). (Google Memorandum of Understanding and immigration for more info.)

Allowing cops the limited amount of training they'd receive (in light of the constantly diminishing law enforcement budgets) is certainly not enough to protect against false imprisonment and the constitutional violations that are sure to occur as a result, even of well intentioned policies.

What's the solution? Certainly not profiling. Fix immigration policy in D.C.? Through earned legalization? Amenesty? Higher walls? More troopos? Guest worker programs? Bracero programs? Who knows? We'll see whether the President's rhetoric is matched by concrete proposals that are given priority in Congress. But I doubt it.

Apologies for the rambling of this post. But in light of my personal experience and in light of the crap I just heard Alberto Gonzalez just spew regarding our liberties and freedoms and checks that are supposed to be the baseline I can't help but be a little upset.

Btw, I've never been cited for any of those stops.

Anonymous said...

Anon - Thanks for your comments. You definitely explained better than I ever could why this kind of practices should not be tolerated.

And rant on - we're all about rants here.