Since When Is Racial Profiling Just?

At an April 2 hearing by two House Judiciary Committee subcommittees entitled "The Public Safety and Civil Rights Implications of State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws," Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) raced through a rapid tangled and convoluted litany of immigration laws. His bottom line? Racial profiling is a good thing.

Both he and Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) used scare tactics to justify profiling, conflating undocumented immigrants and terrorists, invoking 9/11, and telling stories of immigrant criminals. Of course, the facts just don't support their conclusions. In fact, immigrant men are five times less likely to be incarcerated than native-born men.

It was a while before we were able to hear the witnesses rebut King and Smith's opening arguments. The committee recessed for over an hour for votes. During that time, we discovered what a rock star witness the ACLU helped bring to the hearing. Julio Cesar Mora, a 19-year-old citizen from Avondale, Virginia, fielded rapid-fire questions in English and Spanish from journalists for nearly the entire recess.

Julio Cesar Mora answered questions from the media.

When the committee returned, Mora turned his attention to lawmakers. He talked about his experience in Arizona with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's version of justice. As Mora and his father drove to work — obeying all traffic signals — two black SUVs sandwiched his vehicle and forced them to an abrupt stop. Mora and his father were forced to leave their car, had their hands tied with zip ties, and were taken to the father's worksite where a raid was underway. Mora's father, a diabetic, was repeatedly denied permission to use the bathroom, and the two were separated.

Mora was also humiliated by deputies who forced him to urinate with his hands cuffed and mocked him for not being able to do so. In the end, they waited, standing, for over three hours until they were finally allowed to leave, because Mora is a citizen, and his father is a legal permanent resident.

Mora was joined on the panel by Antonio Ramirez, a community advocate and naturalized citizen, from Frederick County, Maryland. Ramirez brought a copy of the Constitution to the hearing, as well as proof of his citizenship. (I guess if I had brown skin in a county where race is routinely used as a pretext to stop drivers to check immigration status, I would carry proof of my citizenship as well.)

Deborah Weissman, a University of North Carolina law professor and co-author of a report on local immigration enforcement with the ACLU of North Carolina, was the third member of the panel. She emphasized the importance of considering local history, explaining that North Carolina has a history of white supremacy. In fact, proponents of these so-called 287 (g) agreements between ICE and local law enforcement in North Carolina have made openly racist statements. For example:

In an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson [who implements the 287(g) program there] . . . made brazenly racist claims about Mexicans, stating, "[t]heir values are a lot different — their morals — than what we have here . . . In Mexico, there's nothing wrong with having sex with a 12-, 13-year-old girl ... They do a lot of drinking down in Mexico." (p. 4 of her testimony)

Agreements that authorize local enforcement of federal immigration laws give Johnson and others like him unchecked power to act on their hate.

So when scare tactics did not make the case for racial profiling, anti-immigrant advocates turned to sympathy.

The final panelist and the minority witness was Ray Tranchant, whose daughter and her best friend were killed by a drunk driver who happened to be an undocumented immigrant. While I (and everyone present) feel horrible for his loss (and, perhaps, worse for the young women whose lives were cut short), he was used to make the argument, that, as Rep. King put it, we have a "choice between political correctness and keeping America safe." The ACLU has repeatedly argued that this is a false choice, and that could not have been clearer at this hearing.

At times, even Tranchant sounded like he should be testifying at a hearing on drunk driving rather than a hearing on immigration law. During the question and answer session, he explained that he is the son of an immigrant, and that "we don't want undesirable people in America; we don't want drunks, but we do want desirable people here." That is something we can all agree upon. As, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) put it, Tranchant's issue is about drunk driving, and Ramirez explained, "I have been here for 21 years and have never killed anyone; alcohol is sold to everyone."

Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) noted that throughout history, immigrants' reputations, whether they were Irish or Italian, have often been tarnished by the actions of a few criminals, and history has rendered those misperceptions of entire classes of people based on the actions of a few ridiculous.

He pointed out that immigrant criminals do most of their damage in the immigrant communities they live in, and immigrants themselves want to be rid of them. If immigrants feel that they cannot call the police for fear that they or someone else in their household will be deported, then those criminals will continue to be free to terrorize others. Their concerns are real.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told a story of Rita Cote, a mother of three with a U.S. citizen husband, who was detained on immigration charges when her sister called the police to report being the victim of domestic violence; the assailant went free. During the second panel, George Gascón, Police Chief in Mesa, Arizona, and Hubert Williams, President of the Police Foundation, echoed the concern that if local law enforcement targets all immigrants, immigrants will stop coming to the police. Williams recounted a question a police chief asked him, "How do you police a community that will not talk to you?"

Additionally, if local law enforcement is spending its energy stopping Latino drivers who are obeying traffic laws or setting up check-points in front of Latino churches, as Weissman has witnessed in North Carolina, they are wasting resources that they could be using to capture real criminals, including drunk drivers.

In the case of local immigration enforcement, we can actually keep America safer by being "politically correct" and ending racial profiling. Therefore, the ACLU applauds the subcommittees for holding this hearing and calls for the suspension of all 287(g) agreements.

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The next group that should be protected against racial profiling is the older person. The older person will be pulled over strictly by their appearance. Won't matter what color they are, if you cannot be seen above the steering wheel they have you.

I am extemely sorry for the loss of those 2 young ladies, such a waste. Yes alcohol is sold to everyone, however those buying alcohol should be responsible. Unfortunately they are not.

Police park out infront of bars and wait for drunk drivers. Do you think that should be done? Perhaps they should be looking for the real criminals instead of sitting by the bar. Sometimes I wonder where are our priorities.

Does the ACLU only want us to obey the laws they deem fit? A law is a law and should be handled by the legislature if it is to be change.


Maggie, you missed the point. The fact of this drunk driver is that he was drunk. The ACLU is not saying he should not be arrested and prosecuted.

What this article was saying is that the fact of this one drunk driver being an undocumented immigrant does NOT mean that ALL undocumented immigrants are drunks and killers. That is the point.

Preventing drunk drivers from getting on the road by sitting in front of bars is okay by me, and that is not racial profiling. It is preventive and targets DRUNK people.




"The U.S. Justice Department estimated that 270,000 illegal immigrants served jail time nationally in 2003. Of those, 108,000 were in California. Some estimates show illegals now make up half of California's prison population, creating a massive criminal subculture that strains state budgets and creates a nightmare for local police forces."


Yes DRUNK people break the law and they need to be held accountable.

I would think that the Hispanic community groups would be upset with profiling since they are being targeted. However that is because of the people here illegally and that is also against the law and they need to be held accountable.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, we handle them, we move on. We do not try to find out who is to blame.


On average 13 americans are killed by illegals. That does'nt include drunk driving. I live in California. I've seen it go to hell because of illegal immigration. There is so much crime. The are really taking California back. People are moving out. Neighborhoods segregate themselves. Schools segregate themselves. Gated communities. If amnesty passes the United States is done. One day part of the United States will succeed from itself. Nations are known for their culture. If one day Africa's population becomes all Chinese does it mean the chinese are african, or Africa is now China? History will repeat itself.


I meant on average 13 americans are killed by illegals everyday.


Racial profiling is a horrible injustice, yet it exists and we see it every day. For heavens sake my son can't even get his race documented on any police report or in the KY prison where he now sits. They have the proof of his race in their hands yet won't put it on record. So not only is he stopped for looking suspicious at every turn and overcharged with all the things they think he must have done, but he gets the ultimate offence of being listed as a white man on all police and court documents. The prison has all the proof in his file of his race, so they have conveniently not put his profile info into their prison system. Would you let them call a black man white? 20,000+ prisoners have profile available, but not him. Native American he is. Dark, brown skin, black eyes, all the features, and a white man say the police in every single instance of a stop or charge. Add to that the inability to get medical care in prison for stage 4 cancer. Yes, that's right, 21, diagnosed at 16 with the number one cancer killer of men 18-39, and he can't even get the scans ordered by his oncologist to monitor him for relapse though the doctors orders have been put in the hands of the KY prison system and added to his file twice.

I read the posts here on the ACLU site and realize the organization is overwhelmed with cases. Though white, having a brown son has certainly opened my eyes to the problems. I just wonder what it takes to get the attention of the ACLU. Not stage 4 cancer in a boy that can't even have his race accurately recorded nor get the scans he needs to monitor him for the relapse of a life threatening illness. Not the double tasering of him on my front lawn a couple of days after his first chemo treatment when he was but 17. Not putting him in s life threatening situation by dragging him from the hospital to the jail at 17 after almost killing him with that taser. And not calling him white though all of those officials have the proof in their hands of his race. Geez, what does it take to have justice?

859-801-7041 if anyone who gives a crap and can do something about it wants the details. I won't hold my breath though. I think it must be too big a case for the ACLU to tackle. I only touched a couple of highlights, and all of us who know about racial profiling and police targeting can tell you there is of course much much more that occurred.


“The U.S. Justice Department estimated that 270,000 illegal immigrants served jail time nationally in 2003. Of those, 108,000 were in California. Some estimates show illegals now make up half of California’s prison population, creating a massive criminal subculture that strains state budgets and creates a nightmare for local police forces.”

Let me put out there that the demographics of the jails are skewed not because illegals commit more crimes but because they are targeted for racial profiling. Police are more likely to charge things that did not happen or distort minor offences into felonies if they know one has no money. I have witnessed that happen. Then the system is overburdened and does not provide adequate defence. Often the public defenders have only a few minutes on a case before 'representing' the defendent in court. Also many are only serving as public defenders straight out of college punching the ticket before they move on to the prosecutor's office where they really want to be. The prisons are not stastistically significantly skewed toward minorities because minorities commit more crimes. There is bias throughout the system that is causing it. Basic science.


Rep. King put it, we have a "choice between political correctness and keeping America safe."

There is no safety when the Bill of Rights of our constitution are broken and then justified by police and courts. Without accountability to the law of those who enforce and interpret the law, none are safe. There is no greater threat citizen safety than putting guns and authority in the hands of men and then not holding them accountable to the laws. One can reason oneself into almost any position, but stand back and realize we then say one must break the law to keep the law. We justify that our police must be criminals to keep us safe. We must strike down the Bill of Rights to keep ourselves safe. Either police and courts need to stick to the law, and by that I mean federal law, or they don't. If allowed to bypass, they also become criminals, fuzz the lines of accountability and law, and open the system up to every kind of abuse by those we have armed with guns and authority. In this sort of system, it will not be simply the minorities who pay the price. It will be each and every American at some point unless they have vast funds to buy their defence.


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