Editorials and Opinions

Crossing the border: should you be punished?

By Laura Haime
Published: May 2010

Excited to enjoy the spring weather, I decide to walk to school. On my way, I think about all of the homework I didn’t do the night before. As I contrive my game plan to get around the assignments, a cop car pulls over, thwarting my trip to school.“Excuse me, miss, can I see your documents?

Documents? It’s hard enough to remember to carry my license when I drive; why would I have anything with me when I’m just walking?

“Sorry, sir, I’m just on my way to school, I respond.

“Miss, I need to see your documents. I can tell you are of Hispanic ethnicity and if you don’t have them, I’m going to have to take you down to the station immediately.

One moment I was worried about overcoming my inclination to procrastinate in school and the next moment, I can only think of how I’ll contact my parents before I get deported.

Fortunately, this pseudo situation would never happen in Newton. I am free to roam the streets without a care in mind about my ethnicity. But in Arizona, this scenario is all too real.

Three weeks ago, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed an immigration bill that requires immigrants to carry around their alien registration at all times. The bill also enforces Arizona police to request the documents of anyone who looks like an immigrant, and, more specifically, a Latino immigrant.

Since I moved to the United States from Colombia nine years ago, I have never seen my alien registration. It was just one of those important documents that my mother stored away and I never had to worry about. Yet, if I lived in Arizona, this document would be the most valuable piece of paper in the world to me.

I would even be thankful that my appearance does not scream “Latina. Sure I have olive skin, dark hair and brown eyes, but since those are genetically dominant traits, I tend to blend in with the crowd. My dad, on the other hand, does not.

My dad is a tall man with a dark mustache and a thick, undeniable, Latin accent. If he lived in Arizona, my dad would constantly be stopped by the police. The hardships that he went through to get to the US and the fact that he is a respected cardio-surgeon are irrelevant if he still looks like he resembles his ethnicity.

Critics around the world compare this law to the occurrences of Nazi–Germany. “It is absolutely reminiscent of second class status of Jews in Germany prior to World War II when they had to have their papers with them at all times and were subject to routine inspections at the suspicion of being Jewish, Representative Jared Polis of Colorado said.

I understand that citizens in Arizona and all around the United States are very concerned with the large population of illegal immigrants. However, making the lives of these people, as well as those who look like them, imposible is not the answer.

Illegal immigrants already live every day in fear of losing everything they have worked for. There are immigrants that have lived here for 10, 20, or maybe even 30 years who still risk their lives every time they drive a car because they cannot get a license. One wrong move can send these hard working people back to their country of origin.

I do not, however, support illegal aliens. I believe that the federal government must take steps to handle this issue on a more logical and ethical level.

Since he was sworn in last January, President Barack Obama has called on Congress to start work on comprehensive immigration reform. In other words, he has done nothing.

Nevertheless, President Obama strongly opposes the law in Arizona, and rightfully so.

“The law threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe, Obama said.

This controversial bill, a recipe for racial profiling, will only create lawsuits. Individuals, like my father, who may be questioned by the police on a regular basis, could sue the state for stereotyping and discrimination.

Individuals, however, are not the only who would sue the state. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department was considering a federal lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law.

This unconstitutional law is a bad step in the wrong direction. Instead of passing these bills in desperation to mend a problem in the short run, organizations and local governments need to take smaller steps to make a bigger difference. The situation is not black and white; the only options are not to ignore or to deport. The United States government needs to find the gray in between these two options to solve this pressing issue.

“If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country, President Obama said.

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