Racial Profiling in Arizona

Right now, one of the most controversial subjects in the nation is the debate over the passing of SB 1070 in Arizona and several other measures directed at the Latino population.  These laws are raising a lot of questions about how we deal with race and immigration in this country.  As you read the information below, consider the following:

  1. How do these laws impact the entire nation?  What do they mean for our students even if they don’t live in Arizona?
  2. What are your thoughts on the issues surrounding undocumented workers in the U.S.?  How do your feelings on this subject impact the way you work with students whose parents are undocumented workers?
  3. Racial profiling has a huge impact on our country with or without this law, Amnesty International reports that racial profiling has impacted 32 million people in the United States.  Think about the implications of this for students of color, how does racial profiling shape their worldview?

This law will allow police to arrest anyone they presume to be an illegal immigrant who is not carrying documentation of their legal status in the United States.  Additionally, it criminalizes transporting illegal immigrants or soliciting work from them.  A number of opponents and activists have pointed out that this law amounts to racial profiling which is prohibited under international human rights agreements.  Currently in Arizona racial profiling is legal, and, while President George W. Bush issued a directive against racial profiling in 2003, state and local law enforcement agencies do not have to comply with this measure.

An article by the Center for American Progress points out that this law is unconstitutional on several fronts and numerous leaders, including President Obama, have denounced the law.  Court challenges are expected and it is possible that the White House may get involved in working to end this law.  Presently, people in Arizona and around the country are engaging in large protests and some are organizing an economic boycott of the state until changes are made.

This law is dangerous for many different groups of people including students.  According to a Teaching Tolerance article, youth are often targeted in racial profiling.  For a lot of people, SB 1070 presents the threat of deportation and could split up the families of students in a number of different ways.  For example, if a student is a U.S. citizen and has parents who are undocumented workers can be deported while the student remains in the United States and may end up in foster care.

This law does not represent an isolated instance of xenophobia and racism directed at the Latino population.  Currently Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, has a piece of legislation on her desk that will take away state funding from schools if they do not eliminate their ethnic studies programs.  HB 2281, Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:

  • Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  • Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  • Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  • Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

This bill is aimed directly at the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies department, a program designed to provide Mexican-American students with a rich understanding of their history and culture.

Additionally, the Arizona Department of Education recently ordered the removal of teachers with heavy accents or ungrammatical speech.  According to the Washington Post, “The move was apparently aimed at Spanish-speaking teachers who had been hired in the 1990s during the state’s era of bilingual education.”  Opponents of the move say the standards of fluency are arbitrary and that experienced teachers will be terminated based on their immigrant status.  Teachers will be given the opportunity to take an accent reduction class, but may still lose their jobs if their progress is determined to be insufficient.

There is a great deal of information on these laws and what is being done to fight them, below are a few articles on the subject:

Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling, Sparks National Conversation on Immigration Law and Reform
Not the Arizona I Knew
Arizona Immigration Law: A Roundup
Obama Administration Officials, GOP Senator Graham Criticize Arizona Immigration Law
UN Human Rights Experts Say Arizona Immigration Law Could Violate International Standards

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