Arizona’s immigration law confuses me

I’ve not really waded into the hubbub surrounding Arizona’s new immigration law. I try to make sure I understand something before I open my big mouth, and when I tried to read the text of the bill it went like this: “The legislature finds that there is a compelling intereszzzzzzz…” Holy crap, that’s a boring read.

But the discussion hasn’t gone away completely. In fact, it seems like Sean Hannity’s still talking about it every day. He says that this will prohibit racial profiling, nay, it forbids it. This I had to see.

After a (relatively) careful reading of the bill, I gotta say (brace yourself) Hannity’s got it wrong.

Thankfully the final bill has some clarifications that mattered to me. No longer does it say “lawful contact.” Instead, it specifies that it must be a lawful “stop, detention or arrest” must occur before an officer can inquire about a person’s immigration status. Well done.

But the phrase “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien” that bothers me. What provides reasonable suspicion? The law states that the law enforcement agent may not consider “race, color or national origin” in enforcement, but I gotta ask: If you can’t take someone’s race, color, or – incredibly – national origin into account, what exactly would they take into account? A person’s accent? How they’re dressed?

This segment of the bill offers me no comfort that people won’t be harassed simply for looking Latino. Ever heard of “Driving While Black”? I fear folks in Arizona will have to be prepared to deal with “Driving While Brown.” Swerve out of your driving lane a little bit? Have a headlight or tail light out? Going a few miles per hour over the speed limit? My guess is you’ll be stopped.