Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee offers some insightful commentary in the wake of the passage and enactment of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law.
When Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law last month, Houston-area immigration lawyer Annie Banerjee was not applauding. “The law is racist,” she says, “and will unfairly target people who don’t look white. Although Governor Brewer denies that it will be used as a tool for racial and ethnic profiling, I’d be amazed if it doesn’t do exactly that.”
Banerjee perceives the law as a knee-jerk reaction calculated to inflame passions and create polarization rather than as a legitimate measure suggestive of immigration reform. “It’s not rocket science. If you put all that extra authority in the hands of law enforcement, they’re going to see it as a way to harass people they don’t particularly like anyway. A phrase like ‘reasonable suspicion’ is just like a code-word for allowing a prejudiced authority figure’s worst instincts to surface,” Banerjee explains.
According to Banerjee, there is a way to prevent racial profiling with the implementation of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, although perhaps Banerjee is being facetious. “They could make the law fair,” argues Banerjee, “If the Arizona authorities were to stop and require every person – and I mean every person – to produce proof of citizenship – the law might just work out fine. Checkpoints could be set up all across Arizona, maybe at precise intervals. Going from A to B, a one hour trip would suddenly become a two hour trip if you got through the checkpoint that was in your way, without any trouble. Arizona residents would suddenly get to experience what Palestinians experience on a daily basis in the Occupied Territories, and I’m sure that they’d be thrilled to live just like those that they’ve heard about from an exotic land. It’d be like going to the Middle East without even needing a plane ticket.”
This kind of set-up might irritate a few Arizonians, but it would be worth it. “At least there wouldn’t be any racial profiling to worry about in that case,” Banerjee concludes.
Although her example might be a bit farfetched, and misses the point as far as proponents of the Arizona law are concerned – according to recent polls a majority of Caucasians not only in Arizona but in other states appear “okay” with the racial profiling of “people of color” and consider it to be a necessary evil – Banerjee vehemently disagrees.
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