"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Law Approves Racial Profiling in Denver

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The residents of Denver, Colorado have always taken great pride in being a community of tolerance and ability to respect the rights of all people. Compared to the rest of the state, Denver has always been perceived as more liberal and because of it demographics, mindful of the issues of justice and civil rights.

In a city where Latinos sent about 34% of the population, and African Americans about 18%, we should be able to work together to ensure that unjust laws are not passed in our city. Certainly, the minority represent the majority in our city.

On primary Tuesday, Denver voters were asked to approve a new city ordinance requiring police to impound any vehicle where the driver does not have a valid driver's license or where the driver "is suspected of being an illegal alien". There is also a large "impoundment fee" which may prohibit many unlicensed drivers from even getting their vehicle our of the car pound.

The vague language in the initiative will encourage discrimination and harassment based on skin color, spoken language, and appearance. This measure will only divide our community by creating fear and confusion in communities of color, but it will also thrust the undocumented immigrant community further into the shadows of our society.

The ordinance passed with 54% voting yes to implement the ordinance, and 46% voting no.

Currently under Colorado statute, law enforcement officers already have the discretion to impound any vehicle when the driver does not have a valid driver's license or proper insurance on the vehicle. The new ordinance is merely a duplication of state laws and yet another way to legislate a mean spirited effort that ultimately will only increase racial profiling of Latinos in our city.

You may have heard the expression, "driving while Black" used by African Americans when describing racial profiling. Here in Denver, the new expression will be "driving while brown."

As far as I am concerned, this measure will further erode the standard of justice and morality in our community. Denver has a long history and tradition of different ethnic groups contributing to our city, unfortunately on Primary Tuesday; we started to change that perception.

A unique coalition came together to fight the initiative and to educate Denver voters on reasons why this divisive measure would only create more harm than good.

The coalition was comprised of interfaith religious leaders, city officials, Mayor John Hickenlooper, immigrant rights organizations, and labor. Even with this broad based coalition, the measure still passed.

The Colorado Minutemen and CAIR, an affiliate of FAIR supported this immoral initiative. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently added FAIR to its list of hate groups operating in the United States.

Our efforts to ensure that justice would be the primary consideration is what separates us from these mean-spirited hate groups, whose goal is to bring their hate philosophy to our city and create a climate of fear, suspicion, and hate.

The next step in preventing this measure from being fully implemented will mean a turn to the courts. There are serious questions as to its legality, which will only ensure that the new law will be challenged.

Our hopes are now that the court will find reason to prevent this measure from being enforced and look at the passage as a temporary setback. Having lost the election, there simply is no way that people of justice and righteousness can stand idle while an unjust law is on the books.

The passage of this initiative is further proof that we cannot pass immigration reform laws in a piece meal fashion. More and more cities and states around the country are passing immigration laws creating more confusion. The passage of this initiative only points to the necessity that the Federal Government must pass new and comprehensive immigration laws that will fix an outdated and broken immigration system.

The alliances that were forged during this campaign must continue to be vigilant and continue to fight injustice and values that only degrade the standard of immorality in our city.

I wonder how many people meant to go to the polls and vote no, but did not make the time to vote against hate and injustice. No question Dr. Martin Luther King was correct when he stated, "we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."

Fidel "Butch" Montoya
H. S. Power & Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative
Denver, Colorado 80212

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