Thursday, October 22, 2009

Racial Profiling Focus is Distraction

I have become convinced that the focus on racial profiling is a distraction to the detriment of migrants' freedom. I am not saying racial profiling is okay, but it implies that what is wrong is that people who are being stopped because of their skin color (or other physical cues) are innocent, implying that those who have broken immigration law are not those worth our concerns. Yet, i would hope that those who claim to be allies or advocates for undocumented immigrants would not allow this idea to be promoted.

Okay get this. Anti-Arpaio folks are so focused on these sweeps and the racial profiling and all that, yet only 6% of the arrests of undocumented immigrants occur out in the community, whereas the other 94% of migrants are identified for deportation when they go through the jails (and the folks in the jails are those arrested by the various police departments in the valley) (Source). (This is partly why DHS is continuing the agreements of 287(g) that involve jail checks.) Other police departments are arresting more migrants than the MCSO without these hyped-up "crime supression sweeps", as i discussed further in If Phx and Mesa PD are arresting more immigrants, why is focus on Arpaio?

Clearly, if we are concerned about migrants, we would be focused on the various police departments' arrests, on the jail checks, and on the legislation Pearce is trying to push, as well as on the federal laws. If it weren't for the federal laws, there wouldn't be arrests and deportations of migrants.

Overall, the lefty migrants' rights movement is unwilling to oppose the federal laws, and is therefore limited to using the available laws to advocate for migrants. When the justice department and the fbi announced their investigations of Arpaio, many activists jumped on the opportunity to bring Arpaio down. Yet they are obviously limited to what is already against the law. "The Civil Rights Division has an open and ongoing investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office into alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures, and on allegations of national origin discrimination. As part of that investigation, we had observers on the ground in Arizona last week." (Source). Ignoring that the federal government is oppressing the migrants just as much, incidents of racial profiling and perhaps other things were reported to the feds.

When we look to the federal government to protect us (or others) from the local government (or anyone), we are confined to the law. If detaining migrants is legal, but racial profiling is illegal, then we document the racial profiling and hand over the videos to the feds, hoping something will come of it. The problem is, much of the injustices against migrants are perfectly legal.

In a lot of ways Arpaio is a clown, a decoy, distracting everyone's attention away from everything else that's going on. (Unfortunately because i'm not an investigative journalist, i rely on what the other media covers and so i end up focusing on these things as well). He's waving his arms, saying "look over here!", creating stunts and various media circus tricks, saying shocking things, and meanwhile his antics are not even accomplishing much at all. That is the funny thing about it. Sure, the sweeps might be terrorizing people, but he's not arresting all that many people, like i mentioned earlier. Meanwhile families are getting torn apart, people are having their dignity, health, and safety ripped away by other police departments, ICE/border patrol, the private detention centers. (I discuss this further in Federal Government Will Not be Maricopa County's Savior).

And so while folks are waiting for the federal government to save the day, they mustn't question the immigration laws or the enforcers themselves. I discussed this back in April in Racial Profiling Discussion Undermines Solidarity with Immigrants when Al Sharpton and a representative of ACORN were on the Lou Dobbs show discussing racial profiling.

The problem is that the way it's being discussed constructs a hierarchy in which people who are not "illegal" are the unintended targets who do not deserve to be stopped, while undocumented migrants are the correct targets of the racial profiling sweeps. Unfortunately, it is difficult to characterize commentators' position on the issue, and to separate media interpretation from advocates' stances. Additionally, racial profiling is often not defined, nor is it explained why it is wrong.

The ACLU defines racial profiling in this way:
"Racial Profiling" refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime. Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown"), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband.
The idea here is that one should not be suspected of a crime because of how they look, but if one has committed a crime, the way they are caught should not be by appearance. However, one could argue that those who are guilty of a crime should be caught no matter the means. Frankly, there are people who would make themselves out to be advocates for migrants when in fact they do not want to question the law, and therefore do not openly oppose the arrests of migrants under any conditions, involving racial profiling or not.

While some may say that this racial profiling is only wrong when it catches legal residents and citizens up in its net, others may say that what is wrong is for officers to investigate someone's citizenship status just because of the way they look- that a person who is undocumented should have the benefit of the doubt like everyone else. Yet the immigration laws themselves are rarely questioned. Some might state that the offense is only a misdemeanor and therefore should not be treated like worse crimes, yet hardly anyone says that movement should not be a crime.

The racial profiling issue is a big one right now, which is why i bring this up again (i discussed it earlier here and here). Stephen Lemons is writing an interesting series in the Phoenix New Times about legal residents and citizens getting arrested by MCSO during the racial profiling (and workplace raids). There was a great video put out called Arpaio's Reign of Terror. And just recently Arpaio has gotten a lot of media coverage for his statements on their ability to continue to enforce immigration law.

Arpaio recently has had to defend his immigration enforcement after having his 287(g) status limited by the feds. He has cited nonexistent laws to justify continuing his targeting of migrants. In addition, he has said that there are ways his officers can identify undocumented immigrants: "There are certain criteria. No identification, looking like they just came from Mexico, and they admit it. So that's enough." (Source).

He also denied and admitted to racial profiling on another show.
SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven’t committed a crime — how do you prove they they’re not illegal?

ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they’re wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.

SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they’re wearing sir?

ARPAIO: No, when they’re in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action…the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It’s right in the law.

By the way, the law he is referencing might either be the nonexistent law he cited earlier this week, or an old ICE manual, which is not law and doesn't apply to officers in the field because their jurisdiction under 287(g) has been restricted.

As part of Arpaio's defense, this was included in yesterday's press release:
Some of the indicators listed in the attached ICE training manual are:
(1) does the detainee have a thick accent or not comprehend English;
(2) whether the individual had identification;
(3) is the location of the stop a known illegal alien locale;
(4) is the detainee’s appearance unusual or out of place in the specific locale;
(5) does the detainee appear to be in transit or recently traveling;
(6) did the detainee’s demeanor (i.e., “freeze or take flight” when first spotted by
the officer;
(7) did the vehicle seem overcrowded or ride heavily; and
(8) did the passengers in the vehicle slouch down, slump or attempt to avoid being
detected in the vehicle. (Source).
But as the Feathered Bastard quoted an ACLU lawyer as pointing out, this ICE manual is not law, nor is it relevant to the MCSO's duties on the streets since they no longer have auhtority under 287(g), and this manual is from 2005.

Racial profiling is a problem. And it is positive that shedding light on this blatant injustice shows that Arpaio is a hypocrite.

Okay, so say we stop the racial profiling. What then? Are we done or do we move on to the injustices that are sanctioned by the government? What if we start on those now instead of getting distracted by Arpaio's antics?

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