My parents retired to Arizona over a decade ago. My two children, as many of you know, are half Japanese (my wife’s parents immigrated to the US in the Fifties) and half a mixture of Northern European ancestry (German, English, Welsh, Scotch-Irish).

They don’t look like me all that much (Especially since I have skin that doesn’t tan so much as it turns red in the sun) but they also don’t look like my wife. In fact, it would be easy for someone to confuse them as being Latin American simply because their skin has a darker tone than mine, particularly if they’ve been out in the sun much, and their eyelids have a slight epicanthic fold, a trait common to Asians, but also to Native Americans and many Latin Americans as well.

Their name is odd as well, combining my wife’s family name with my own with a hyphen separating the two. My son has a NY driver’s license and my daughter a Western NY high school ID but I’m not sure how much that would cut it with Arizona authorities if they were stopped for some trivial reason by the police in Arizona (suspicion of loitering perhaps at the mall?) in the absence of my parents or myself should they be visiting their grandparents (or in the future in any other state considering similar “papers please” laws.

My wife informed me the other night in all seriousness that if our kids visit their grandparents in Arizona she wants them to carry their passports with them at all times. Is that paranoid? I don’t know. My kids could be mistaken for people that might be considered potential “illegal immigrants” by some police officers. And my wife has experienced racial bigotry and discrimination in her life despite being a member of one of the “good” races (i.e., Asian). After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Asian Americans were being attacked at the height of the paranoia about the rise of Japan’s economic power in the 80’s.

Now the xenophobes in our country have a new target for their animus: illegal Latin American immigrants. And let’s be clear about this: no one is clamoring about the wave of illegal Canadians pouring over our borders to take away good American jobs, even though those Canadians who do come here often do take high paying jobs in a variety of industries (think Steve Nash, professional basketball player, or Michael J. Fox, actor, or William Shatner, pitchman for Priceline).

Poor Latin Americans, however, legal or illegal, tend take jobs that no one else in the US would do because no one else would work for the dirt poor wages that are paid to them to harvest our crops, work at slaughterhouses, clean houses, mow lawns, etc.

We know that the “crime wave” justification for the Arizona law is bogus.

Yet, a look at statistics from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the FBI indicate that both the number of illegal crossers and violent crime in general have actually decreased in the past several years.

According to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 reported incidents between 2005 and 2008. Reported property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. These decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona’s population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008.

According to the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Institute, proponents of the bill “overlook two salient points: Crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century’s worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born.”

We know that the Arizona State Senate Majority leader Chuck Gray has had close affiliations with white supremacist organizations. We know that a sponsor of the law, State Senator Russell Pearce has been photographed hugging a known Neo-Nazi leader, JT Ready.

[B]ack in 2006, Pearce caught a lot of people’s attention by forwarding to a bunch of his friends and associates an article on immigration from a neo-Nazi news source — namely, the National Alliance, the folks who brought you The Turner Diaries. The article was about Jewish control of the media and how it supposedly creates a bias against whites and favors minorities and Israel. Pearce apologized, but never could explain why he was reading material from the National Alliance in the first place. […]

But then he was seen working arm in arm with this fellow … a guy named J.T. Ready, who also happens to be one of Arizona’s leading neo-Nazis.

We also know that the group FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) and its leaders also have multiple ties to racist organizations.

For nine of the first years of FAIR’s existence, the group reportedly received more than $1 million in funding from something called the Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund describes itself as based “in the Darwinian-Galtonian evolutionary tradition and eugenics movement.” For the last 70 years, the Pioneer Fund has funded controversial research about race and intelligence, essentially aimed at proving the racial superiority of white people. The group’s original mandate was to promote the genes of those “deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.”

Tanton’s organization, FAIR, claims credit for writing Arizona’s new immigration law. The link between Fair and the Pioneer Fund makes sense, especially after you read more of Tanton’s writing, like this: “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority and a clear one at that.”

In 1997, John Tanton told the Detroit Free Press that America will soon be overrun by illegal immigrants “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”

In a perfect world, my children would be judged on the content of their character (my son received 31 college credits for his High School AP courses and has a full tuition scholarship and my daughter is in all the honors classes available to her as a Freshman in High School) rather than the color of their skin. But as the Arizona law has shown, their character may mean nothing to a police officer who can come up with a “reasonable suspicion” that they might be illegal immigrants.

“Reasonable suspicion” is a rather vague legal standard at best.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines reasonable suspicion as that “quantum of knowledge sufficient to induce an ordinarily prudent and cautious man … to believe criminal activity is at hand. It must be based on clearly articulable facts, which, taken together with rational inferences [emphasis added] from those facts, warrant intrusion.”

The [US Supreme] Court has not clearly defined reasonable suspicion.

In the case of Alabama v. White (1990) the Supreme Court stated the following regarding the standard of reasonable suspicion:

Reasonable suspicion is a less demanding standard than probable cause not only in the sense that reasonable suspicion can be established with information that is different in quantity or content than that required to establish probable cause, but also in the sense that reasonable suspicion can arise from information that is less reliable than that required to show probable cause. [emphasis added]

In that case an anonymous tip was held sufficient to establish “reasonable suspicion.” What else would justify a police officer to have a reasonable suspicion that someone was in the country illegally?

The way they were dressed? The skin color of the people involved? Their facial features? A store owner complaining that he thinks the people in his store may be illegal? Other people coming up to the officer and stating the individuals in question were acting strangely?

Who knows? A law enforcement officer simply has to say he considered the “totality of the circumstances” and that all the “facts” and inferences he could draw from those “facts” justified his suspicion that permitted him or her to stop them and request proof of their right to be in the state of Arizona.

Not terribly illuminating is it? Yet this is the standard Arizona police are permitted to use to determine whether someone is potentially an illegal alien who can be stopped and asked for proof that they are legally in this country.

So, I ask again the question which is the title to this post: Do my kids need to carry their passports with them when they travel to Arizona? I’d like to think they don’t, but to be honest, I wouldn’t want them to take the risk.

But in America, why should my children have to worry about being profiled by law enforcement and arrested as potential illegal aliens if they can’t “prove” their citizenship in the first place? What kind of country are we becoming where police officers in any state can make a subjective judgment to ask you for such proof and then arrest you if you can’t produce immediate proof of your right to be here?*

*That’s a rhetorical question people.

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