Monday, June 25, 2012

US Supreme Court legalizes racial profiling

The US Supreme Court ruling on the draconian & racist Arizona immigration law (SB1070), is rightfully called a legal victory by the governor of the state, Jan Brewer. The Court upheld only one provision & threw out three others but given the centrality of what is retained, the three provisions thrown out amount to chicken feed. The court threw out (1) a requirement for immigrants to register with the federal government, (2) the right to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants without a warrant, (30) making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or seek work in Arizona. What the Court upheld is the directive to state & federal police to check immigration status when they stop people for any offense, including when they suspect someone of being undocumented. This is not merely a consolation prize to Arizona immigration opponents; it is racial profiling which has always been the very heart of SB1070. That means if you look Mexican or Latino, you can be stopped & interrogated about your immigration status. And just to be clear, Arizona was once a part of Mexico wrested in a war of conquest by the US in 1848--so Mexicans go back generations in Arizona, long before any gringos showed up.

Under the Fourth Amendment of the US Bill of Rights, probable cause (which is defined as a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime) is the standard by which officers of the law can detain someone. But under the guise of the war on drugs, police run rough shod over that democratic right in the Black community, stopping drivers, conducting illegal search & seizures, harassing youth, conducting stop & frisks simply because someone is Black. That is exactly what is retained in the legal travesty of SB1070: the right to stop someone simply because they look Mexican or Latino. Brewer claims Arizona cops will be trained not to engage in racial profiling. But the Court fully anticipates further challenges to the law if it is abused with racial profiling or if prolonged detentions are required for those unable to produce immigration papers because they know damn well such abuses are inevitable. There was no movement to defend Black youth against these assaults when they began a few decades ago & thousands of young people continue to be unjustly incarcerated. Today, there is an active immigration rights movement opposing laws like SB1070 which is why there have been challenges to these racist laws. The US government has now generalized them in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), where any US citizen can be disappeared without due process (Guantanamo writ large!) & as we saw with the Occupy movement last year, is challenging other provisions of the Bill of Rights like free speech & the right to assembly. Defending democracy in this country means participating in the movement opposing all laws like SB1070, opposing stop & frisk practices (as activists are doing in NYC),  demanding the end of racial profiling, & immigration rights for fellow workers. (Photographer not identified)

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