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'Show me your papers' upheld in AL, GA

Felicia Persaud | 8/31/2012, 9:59 a.m.
Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now!

Get ready to show your "papers" in Alabama and Georgia.

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has given the two states the green light to allow law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. That means essentially any person of color or with a strange accent who these officers may suspect, including U.S.-born citizens and green-card holders as well.

The court has given this go-ahead even though it acknowledged that the "show me your papers" clause could lead to racial profiling in practice.

In their 33-page decision, the appellate judges claimed that basing any action on race, color or place of origin is banned both constitutionally and under the states' laws, so that "it is inappropriate" to assume that either state will ignore its own law by enforcing the immigration law in a discriminatory manner.

Really? Where exactly are these justices living? The same rules are on the book in all states, but that does not stop racial profiling from happening daily, even right here in the most liberal of states, New York!

For the justices to recognize the racial profiling element but still uphold this racist clause speaks volumes of the justice system. Are we willing to allow ourselves to return to an era where "Boy, show me your papers" will become the way of living and travel to the South?

The entire law is unconstitutional since only the federal government has the right to enforce immigration rules. So why are justices recognizing that the measure is unconstitutional on the grounds that it would block undocumented children from registering in school and bar residents and businessmen from hiring or doing business with people residing in the state illegally yet fail to see that the profiling element of these police stop-and-frisks is tossable?

The mere acceptance of this rule by the justices gives credence to these draconian laws and allows more states to believe they can create fiefdoms in their own sphere when it comes to immigration and blatantly ignore the federal government.

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama certainly is brimming with pride over this ruling. "The essence of Alabama's immigration law has been upheld by today's ruling," he said. "The court is recognizing the state's authority to inquire on immigration status in certain circumstances."

Thankfully, groups like the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Asian Law Caucus and the Asian American Justice Center have all insisted they will continue to fight in order to protect people's constitutional rights.

So too should the U.S. Justice Department, headed by the son of an immigrant. Why are they still asleep at the wheel and failing to put these states in their places regarding the racial profiling of all immigrants and people of color? As hate continues to rise in this country, the time is now to stamp down on rules such as those put forth in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, among others, or else we will regress back to the pre-civil rights era and the dirty past that made these states infamous!

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.