Racial Profiling and its Consequences

States have been passing immigration laws over the past few years in an attempt to crack down on undocumented immigration. Arizona’s law, which recently had parts of its provisions struck down by the US Supreme Court, is only one of these types of laws, which typically give local authorities more powers to enforce immigration rules.

One of the biggest concerns about these types of laws, according to immigration advocates, is that they can encourage racial profiling. In many cases, these laws mandate that local authorities – and in some cases religious leaders in the community, school officials, landlords, and others – check the immigration status of those in their care and those they believe may be in the country illegally. Alabama has been considering a law which would ban religious leaders, including priests and pastors, from harboring undocumented immigrants. Many religious groups are concerned that this law would make it illegal for churches to help undocumented immigrants in any manner. In March 2012, religious groups filed amicus brief with the Supreme Court, alleging that many state immigration laws make it harder for religious organization to provide the care, food, and shelter they are tasked with providing.

Many groups see the current slate of state immigration laws as a possible threat to religious liberty since they make it a crime for churches to provide basic pastoral care to undocumented immigrants. Many groups also feel that the laws encourage racial profiling. The news is filled with stories of legal immigrants and US-born citizens being questioned by police about their immigration status.

The US Department of Justice has accused Arizona’s Sheriff Joseph Arpaio of arresting and detaining Latino residents in his constituency illegally. He was also accused by the agency of retaliating against those who spoke out against his practices. The Department of Justice launched a lawsuit against Arpaio in the matter.

Many immigrants and US citizens say that they have been stopped by authorities and asked for proof of status because of the way they look or because they are deemed suspicious. Many who have a Hispanic background have reported needing passports and other documents to travel to states such as Arizona, even though they are in the country legally.