Sample Op-Ed: Off Target Report and Racial Profiling

In August 2011, AILA released a report, Immigration Enforcement Off Target: Minor Offenses with Major Consequences, highlighting cases submitted by members wherein local law enforcement questioned individuals about their immigration status. Several of these cases indicated that racial profiling had been the cause of the original stop. You can use this sample op-ed in your local papers, including adding an example from your own experience if applicable.

In July 2009, Adrian Bustillos-Alarcon was changing a tire by the side of the road when a police officer approached him. Instead of asking Adrian if he needed help or offering assistance, the police officer ran the car's license plates and asked for Adrian's documents. Then he called immigration. Although Adrian was never charged with any crime and had no prior criminal history, he was arrested, taken to a local jail, and held there until immigration authorities came to get him two days later.

Adrian's story is only one of 127 similar stories gathered by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and highlighted in a new report outlining immigrants' cases after they were questioned by local police and turned over to federal immigration authorities for deportation. Some of the 127 were accused of committing minor offenses. But, just like Adrian, many others were questioned for no apparent reason at all.

Adrian is a Mexican national; he and many others in those 127 cases were approached by local law enforcement and questioned seemingly because they looked foreign.

This same situation happens right here in our community, too. [attorney insert own story]

This type of racial profiling exists under the guise of immigration enforcement. The federal government says that racial profiling should play no role in immigration enforcement, yet AILA's report suggests that immigration authorities turn a blind eye when local police refer cases to them, regardless of the suspicious circumstances surrounding the referral. Overlooking such discretions only encourages local law enforcement to take an active role in enforcing federal immigration laws, including stopping and questioning anyone who "looks foreign."

Communities that believe they are the targets of racial profiling and other civil rights violations do not trust the police, do not report crime, and do not come forward as witnesses. Racial profiling not only undermines our American values, it threatens our collective safety.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims that its programs were designed to reduce the potential for racial profiling, but statements by DHS spokespersons and slick government pamphlets alone do not change the reality on the ground. Rather, DHS needs to take real and proactive steps to ensure that its programs, policies, and practices are not encouraging racial profiling and endangering us all.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11081835.