I’ll Show You My Papers If You Show Me Yours

If I said to a police officer, I’ll show you my papers if you show me yours, I would likely get thrown in the clink for being sass-mouthed.  But the truth is, this would likely never happen to me because of the way I look.  Any great-great-great-great African, india, Jewish grannies are hidden wwaaayyyy back in my geneaology.  I’m so fair skinned that in the winter, you need to wear sunglasses around me I’m that pale.  My eyes are hazel green and the only hints of the mixing characteristic of every person of Latin American descent can be discerned in the kinky roots that start growing in after a Brazilian keratin hair relaxer has tried to beat my hair into submission.

The only part of Arizona’s controversial SB1070 immigration law the Supreme Court upheld is what’s being called the “show me your papers, please” provision, that allows local law enforcement to ask someone arrested for a presumably justifiable reason like running a stoplight or beating his girlfriend (yeesh, but this happens) to prove his immigration status.

Let’s just hope I’m never in this kind of trouble.  But even if I did have a run in with the law, would an Arizona police officer ask to see my passport or birth certificate that proves I was born in the U.S. (and after being mugged at gunpoint in DC and having had my passport stolen, I no longer carry it with me.  Getting a replacement was THAT much trouble)?

Given what I just established–that I don’t “look” like an illegal immigrant or sound foreign due to years of private education, will law enforcement avoid racial profiling (and the ensuing lawsuits) by asking EVERYONE to “show his papers”?

To prove how slippery this slope can be, Democrat Luis Gutierrez plays the “Pick Out the Immigrant” game on the floor of the House of Representatives beginning at @ 0:32:

It’s important to note that Representative Gutierrez is misleading when he fails to mention that police won’t just randomly pick someone out at the mall who looks “foreign” or Latino and ask her to prove her citizenship or residency.  The Supreme Court made clear that police need to have arrested someone first.  That’s a crucial difference.  He also incorrectly places the burden on police who are tasked with enforcing the law and not the elected leaders who introduced and support it.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, plus the other news on immigration such as the Obama Administration pressing the pause button on deportations of DREAMers and the President and his likely challenger Mitt Romney addressing the NALEO annual convention prompted us to ask at Tell Me More while I guest hosted, if the Latino vote is going to mobilize and show up to the polls?  Here’s a cute Tout video, filmed and edited by TMM senior producer Davar Arsalan, right before I walked into the studio:

To help us understand what are the issues of importance to the growing Latino voting bloc and and what’s at stake if they do or don’t show up, we invited Kristian Ramos, a Policy Director at the Democratically-leaning think tank NDN and Mario Loyola, a director at the center-right research institute Texas Public Policy Foundation to explain and debate.

Is this the last we’ve heard of Arizona’s controversial immigration law?



  1. says

    New rulings like these make me feel like I’m stuck in the 60’s with complete idiots in government. Have we really gone back in time to ask for this and why would anyone in their right mind think that asking for someone’s “papers” is okay? It’s embarrassing to live through this.

    • says

      I just hope that our leaders decide to improve our immigration system which I think is better suited for the 20th century and not the 21st century reality of skill sets and labor forces.

  2. says

    Bueno, I would be stopped in a heartbeat with my coco skin and thick NewYoDominican accent. I actually saw a clip of the Pick out The Immigrant Game that aired on C-Span and the approach to prove his point was interesting. And, yes, I agree. The police are just doing their job. They do not create the laws that must they enforce.

    • says

      I think some police groups have come out against SB1070 because they feel it adds duties to already stretched departments and takes officers’ focus away from burglaries, muggings, etc.

  3. says

    The idea of living somewhere where I have to carry my papers all the time terrifies me.

    P.S. You have a great voice. I’m glad many are getting to hear it.

    • says

      Me too, especially after I got mugged at gunpoint and lost my passport with my things. Having to deal with the bureaucracy to get it back with no ID since it was stolen with the purse was getting victimized all over again. That’s why I don’t carry it. And THANK YOU for listening while I guest hosted Tell Me More, mujer! Your support means the world to me!

  4. Ana L. Flores says

    No, it’s not the last we’ve heard because neither side is happy with the ruling and it seems like the Arizona authorities will continue to find ways to harass and detain illegals or those who look like them. Regardless, the seed of fear, shame and discontent has been planted and that’s not something a ruling will change anytime soon.

    • says

      This is the first time I’ve heard someone express one of the irreversible consequences which is that the “seed of fear, shame and discontent has been planted and that’s not something a ruling will change anytime soon.” I can only hope that we keep talking, exchanging ideas, and working toward common ground, if this even exists.

  5. says

    While it’s extremely disheartening to know that this law will be upheld, it is encouraging to see a fellow Puerto Rican like Rep. Gutierrez standing up for our fellow Latinos. This law doesn’t just impact non-citizens or people born in countries that don’t grant U.S. citizenship– it impacts people like me who don’t walk around with their birth certificate or passport in tow.

    • says

      I think you hit the nail on the head about how law enforcement will be burdened with having to enforce these laws by sight, but without profiling. The fact is neither you nor I, more European-looking than stereotypically “Latino” or “foreign”-looking would likely not be singled out on suspicions of being here illegally because of how we look. That’s what I think Rep. Gutierrez masterfully points out in his Pick Out the Immigrant “game.”

  6. says

    What is it with Arizona? They’ve got such mojones stuck up their a$$$’s. I was stopped once coming in the US from Canada (pre 9/11) and wasn’t able to show my passport, so they brought me in to the office and had me recite the anthem and other Americanisms (as if those recitals would deem me a legit citizen). Interestingly enough, they weren’t able to find me in the system and threatened to send me back to Cuba! Ha. Imagine that. It took them 3 hours to finally locate me and confirm that I am a citizen with PAPERS! The kicker: I was wearing a pendant with the Cuban flag on it and when they asked me where I was born, I answered honestly and said “Havana.” That prompted the whole fiasco.

    • says

      I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Arizona. It’s interesting about having to recite the national anthem, etc. as proof of your American citizenship. Some DREAMers who unlike you are not here legally or me who was born here, could probably recite these things and more.

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