Activists applaud Arizona ruling

The Charlotte Post -  June 26, 2012

Pro-immigration activists showed up at the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Monday with flags, signs and something to say against Arizona’s immigration law.

The Latin American Coalition and Action NC gathered hours after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-3 ruling against three-fourths of SB 1070. The court upheld the “show me your papers” provision, which requires local law enforcement to verify the immigration status in any lawful stop, detention or arrest any time there is “reasonable suspicion” of an illegal resident present.

The youngest of immigration proponents, an elementary-aged child, held a red sign with white bold letters that read, “We stand WITH IMMIGRANTS & AGAINST PREJUDICE in North Carolina.”

Leslie Gutierrez, a member of the Immigrant Solidarity Committee, said she brought her daughter to get her involved in activism.

“Being that my daughter is brown, she’s going to be subject to racial profiling, even though she’s an American citizen,” she said. “She’s here today to become an activist in the future because this is the future of our tomorrow. So, she’s going to have to be here to fight for the laws and for people in the future.”

Jess George, the executive director of the Latin American Coalition, was one of four to make an announcement to the press.

“The Supreme Court indirectly legitimized racial profiling for U.S. citizens and immigrants, alike,” she said. “Nevertheless, we are confident that this law and others like it will be ultimately struck down as discriminatory in our country – and unconstitutional.”

She went on to say that the upheld provision would allow for “undefined reasonable suspicion.”

That kind of suspicion was exemplified by a story told by Hector Vaca, Charlotte director of Action NC. His experience with law enforcement happened while he was on his way from an immigration conference in Washington, D.C. While driving home he was stopped by a state trooper. He was asked to get out of his car, empty his pockets and sit in the trooper’s car.

That’s when he was asked what country he was from and where he was born.

 “What does this have to do with why I got stopped?” Vaca asked. “Absolutely nothing.

“As soon as I said ‘American citizen,’ he calmed down.”

Vaca, a Latino with brown skin, said the encounter was based on his color. He supported his claim with a UNC-Chapel Hill study for North Carolina Advocates for Justice that shows blacks and Hispanics have higher rates of search and arrests than whites. In regards to searches for seat belt violations, blacks are 223 percent more likely than whites to be searched, while Latinos are 106 percent more likely.

“Leaving it to the discretion of local law enforcement will lead to more racial profiling because it is already happening,” Vaca said.