By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
The Arizona Legislature after running into harsh criticism and condemnation of SB 1070 as the worst racial and ethnic profiling law in the land, took some feeble steps to change the intent of the law by trying to ensure that law enforcement officers didn’t abuse their authority by stopping and questioning every person who fit the profile of an “undocumented immigrant,” by amending the law with HB 2165.
Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill passed by the Arizona Legislature that now requires every alien present in the state to carry proper documentation that they are legally in the state. The police can use “reasonable suspicion” to question any suspected undocumented immigrant in the state about their legal status. If undocumented immigrants do not carry “their papers,” police can charge them with additional fines, and in effect, making innocent men, or women – criminals.
The whole issue of racial profiling and ethnic intimidation allowing police to question anyone, who fits a profile of an undocumented immigrant, has raised a new issue of defining what an undocumented immigrant looks like. Even Governor Brewer who claims that police will undergo new training in identifying what a undocumented immigrant looks like, could not even venture a response to a question from a reporter what that training will entail.
But like all politicians, she couldn’t pass the chance to give a vague response. "I do not know," she said. "I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think that there are people in Arizona who assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I don't know if they know that for a fact or not."
Mike Littwin, columnist of The Denver Post, wrote the best response to the question. “She said that they're still trying to come up with guidelines for the law. We all know what the law will do — go after those with the wrong accents or the wrong shoes or who press 2 at the ATM.”
The bottom line, civil rights organizations are already lining up to sue the state and demand that the racial profiling law be reviewed by the courts. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Arizona filed their challenge against Arizona’s Latino racial profiling law last week.
In a major show of support and unity with the Latino community, the NAACP, the nations’ oldest and respected civil rights organization in the country called SB 1070 an attempt to roll back the clock on civil rights protections in our country.
The NAACP is outraged that Arizona would pass a law that empowers the police to legally use racial profiling as a means by which to target the Latino community.
The Black community lead the civil rights movement back in the 1950’s, suffering the indignity and injustice of police abuse and brutality during non-violent civil disobedience protests, know what racial profiling can lead to when police abuse the authority given them under the law.
They also understand how the moral disregard of the law can be abused when segregationist Public Safety manager of Birmingham used his police against non-violent protestors in Birmingham. Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor was responsible for the ugliest images embedded in our minds of cops and dogs brutally attacking innocent victims of the civil rights demonstrations. Dr. Martin Luther King called, “Birmingham the most segregated city in America.”
It was here that America watched in horror on television as police used police dogs to drag away protestors in the streets of Birmingham. But one of the most dreadful images caught by news photojournalists of the time were the high powered water fire hoses used to push and wash Black protestors off their feet and into submission.
Speaking from a sense of history and outrage, NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock condemned the fact that SB 1070 was a violation of the moral and human rights standard in our country and an attempt to roll back the clock.
“The passage of SB1070 is an embarrassment to the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, and if we are not careful will leave a permanent stain on the United States’ reputation throughout the world. As an association that has fought for more than 100 years to ensure that basic rights and freedoms would be equally extended to all, it is disheartening to see the State of Arizona enact a law that tramples on the civil rights of Hispanic persons, and one that cannot be enforced without resorting to racial and ethnic profiling. We intend to use the full weight of our 2200 branches and units to ensure that this law is repealed and does not happen in other states across this nation.”
In Colorado, a highly respected civil rights lawyer took the time to analyze SB 1070 and the feeble attempt by the Arizona Legislature to amend the law (HB 2162) in their efforts to quiet claims that by allowing police to use “reasonable suspicion,” basically meant racial and ethnic profiling was legal in Arizona.
Joseph Salazar, who “read and dissected SB 1070,’ even after the legislature passed HB 2165, wrote, “HB 1070 is severely flawed. There are no real safeguards prohibiting unconstitutional conduct, such as racial profiling.” Salazar opined, “The fact is that SB 1070 violates the scared principles of our federal government’s power to regulate immigration.”
Salazar took the task upon himself to read and analyze SB 1070 after Scott McInnis, Republican running for governor of Colorado, claimed that even though he had not read or studied SB 1070, he would sign such a bill if he were Governor of Colorado. The same gentlemen who while in Congress warned the nation right after the 911 terrorist attacks on our country, “the need for profiling for the national security of this country."
David Sirota, columnist for a syndicated column in Oregon Live. Com wrote, “Brandishing his past experience as a police officer, he implored lawmakers "to quit being politically correct" and let authorities make "ethnic background a legitimate component" of law enforcement investigations -- just as Arizona's new statute allows.
"Insurance companies profile for risk. That is what I am asking that we continue to do -- we need to profile for risk," he thundered, adding that using ethnicity as a risk factor "is very legitimate -- I think it is smart."
Commenting further, Sirota wrote, In other words, we should do to civil rights what insurance firms have done to, say, health care -- namely, deny people rights and privileges based on their ascribed characteristics.
No wonder, McInnis didn’t need to read SB 1070 and stand before the microphones and proudly state he would readily agree to sign it into law if he were elected Governor of Colorado. It is part of his DNA as a former cop to understand how easily it is to make “ethnic background a legitimate component” for profiling people who look like the bad guys.
With McInnis’s lack of political astuteness and understanding that SB 1070 is morally reprehensible to a large group of voters in Colorado, he allowed his own personal feelings about racial and ethnic “profiling for risk” to blurt out without understanding the political repercussions of being so frank and in this case, dishonest.
So while civil right lawyer Salazar took the time to read and analyze the law, it was very easy to see that the intent of the Arizona law – as written in the law itself, “The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local governmental agencies in Arizona.”
For McInnis and others who champion the violation of civil rights under the guise of protecting our country by using racial and ethnic profiling might want to take the same amount of time and effort as Salazar and find out for themselves that, “HB 1070 is severely flawed. There are no real safeguards prohibiting unconstitutional conduct, such as racial profiling.” Salazar opined, “The fact is that SB 1070 violates the scared principles of our federal government’s power to regulate immigration.”
No matter how much the Arizona Legislature tried to hide the true intent of SB 1070 by amending the law with HB 2165, putting lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.