Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Toothless Immigration Law

It is either fortunate or unfortunate, depending upon which side you are on concerning this new immigration law, that the undocumented workers in our midst do not realize that this new law is nigh unenforceable. First, the officers charged with enforcing this new law have had zero training on how to implement it. That means the average police officer knows about as much about this law as you do. Secondly, the restrictions on how to get "probable cause" to check documentation is very difficult. Allow me to explain.

This new law does not allow an officer to check documentation for the following reasons:

1. They cannot check documentation based on perceived ethnicity. That means that they cannot check simply because the person "looks Hispanic." No racial profiling.

2. They cannot check documentation due to an inability to speak English, or because of their accent.

That means if an officer pulls over an individual he suspects is of Hispanic origins who cannot speak English, he cannot check documentation based on these observations. So, what would lead to probable cause? That is, when the officer is summoned to court to testify, what will he say to the defense attorney that will satisfy the question of "Why did you ask for Mr. Garcia's documentation?"

How does the officer answer that? If he says it is because Mr. Garcia could not produce a valid driver's license, then that means you, my American friend, can now be detained for up to 48 hours until proof of your citizenship is attained if you lose your license and drive anyway. That may not sound too horrible, but consider this, However the officer answers that question can be directly applied to yourself. That means, inevitably, legal immigrants and even native born Americans can spend time in detention until they can produce proof of citizenship.

That's why I say that this new law is really toothless. No officer in Alabama wants to deal with the headache of accidentally detaining an American citizen because he did not produce a valid driver's license. No court wants to deal with the obvious problem of the officer who candidly admits, "I checked because he looked and sounded foreign." If he can't do this, exactly how are we going to enforce this law? I'm glad I am not a police officer in Alabama right now. This new law has certainly not done them any favors.

Don't worry about it overmuch. This isn't the first time that an anti-immigration law has passed that doesn't make any sense. In 1875, Congress passed a law that barred prostitutes from immigrating into the USA.

Perhaps we could help out our police officers by figuring out how they determined who was and who wasn't a prostitute in 1875. I think that would be an interesting study, don't you?