Saturday, June 05, 2010

What Price Enforcement? Another reply to Vallicella on SB 1070

   Let's try to generate a racial profiling scenario to see what is wrong with it. Profiling can take on different levels. Local law enforcement is expected to be a main player in the fight against illegal immigration. What that results in, is that anyone who looks like a lower-class Hispanic is targeted for what I call "fishing expeditions." Being Hispanic, perhaps along with evidence that the Hispanic is lower-class, is considered sufficient for "reasonable suspicion." People who look like lower-class Hispanics are pulled over on "tickytack" violations, other groups are not. When there is a loud music call about white people playing the Stones too loud, the police ask them to turn the music down. If the music is in Spanish, and the people look like lower-class Hispanics, papers are asked for. Whites get that 10 mph cushion with the speed limit, Hispanics are pulled over if they are so much as 1 mph over the limit. Everyone knows the police don't pursue every possible offense; they pick their battles. But in the hope that they will be able to get an illegal immigrant deported, they pick their battles with Hispanics differently from the way they pick their battles with the rest of us. "Legitimate stops" are generated on other ostensible grounds, but their real purpose is to ask a Hispanic about his immigration status.
      What this means is that, not just the immigration laws, but many other laws are enforced differently depending on the whether or not a person looks Hispanic. Or, perhaps only those police officers who harbor anti-Hispanic prejudices will enforce the law in this way, but citizens will have no protection against that kind of special treatment. That's the sort of thing I'm concerned about. I'm not willing to pay THAT price to enforce the immigration law. We are entitled equal protection under the law, and there should not be different rules for different racial groups or social classes. Can you agree that the above scenario would be a bad one? The fourteenth amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.
           Please note that I am concerned about how our citizens are treated. One group of citizens will be treated differently because of the color of their skin.
           Now, remember that Brewer says that the bill will be enforced without profiling, so I take it she thinks that there is such a thing as profiling, and that 1070 won't involve that. We are still waiting to see the specifics on how the law will be enforced. The question I have is whether the law won't result in a whole lot of undue litigation, whether it will be interpreted in such a way as to avoid the above scenario, and if it doesn't involve profiling, will it be an effective law at all, or just a symbolic gesture.
       Yes, some of the worst fears about the law are generated by its opponents, and that has resulted in the departure of some people. Whether those people are only illegals, or whether Hispanic citizens have left because they fear unequal treatment by law enforcement, is not completely clear. However, that doesn't make the law effective. Assuming that the law is implemented in a way consistent with the Constitution, will it continue to be effective?
          I have no problem with the immigration law being enforced at the border, where it should be enforced, and at the workplace, where some sort of workable ID will be more effective. I just hate the idea of a whole class of people, most of whom are law-abiding citizens, being treated differently by law enforcement because of the color of their skin.


David said...

A working-class neighborhood begins to show signs of decay: graffiti, petty theft, drug activity, panhandling, etc. The citizens then get together and go to the police department. The police respond (if they are worth their pay) by strictly enforcing every law. The police cite people for loitering, littering, juvenile delinquency, public drinking, and so on. They catch a few people on parole violations, harass a few gang members, send some kids back to class and after a while the vagrants move on and the neighborhood returns to normal. The citizens (usually minorities) put up with some harassment and inconvenience (like having to fix the burned out light on their license plate) for a time until the problem is mostly resolved. This happens every day in America.

When I was in college I would often study all night and clear my head with a 2 am walk around the neighborhood. Wearing my field jacket (being recently discharged), not well shaven, and tired looking I was often stopped by police on patrol in my small town. I always carried ID on these walks and was thankful cops were driving around at that hour watching the neighborhood. I got to know some of the police and swapped stories. It seemed a minor inconvenience for living in safe neighborhood.

We have a problem that citizens are trying to resolve. Showing identification seems a minor inconvenience. So, your concerns get on big shrug from me.

Victor Reppert said...

My objection is to a differential enforcement of the law based on ethnicity. Not only would people be asked for their identification, but they would be picked up on other offenses in a way that people of a different ethnic group would not.

Relations between police and minorities is difficult enough as it is. People start from "we want the laws enforced" and slide to "we don't want brown to hang around."

Most Hispanics are here legally, either as citizens or as legal immigrants. They deserve to be treated as equals under the law.

The next step for people who want local government to fight illegal immigration is to pass legislation that says that children of illegal immigrants born here are also here illegally, and are not citizens. So much the worse for the Fourteenth Amendment.

Martin said...

I don't trust the police therefore the law is immoral and it will lead to the repeal of the 14th ammendment.

At the very best you have an argument that the law is not prudent because it is too difficult to enforce evenly but this applies to most laws. Outlaw broken tailights and who suffers- the poor. The rich can fix theirs tomorrow but the poor have to pay the rent first therefore that law is immoral too.

Victor Reppert said...

Although perfect equity in the enforcement of laws is hard to achieve, is there such a thing as profiling which enforces the laws only at an unacceptable cost of unfair treatment of a minority group? I tried to describe a worst-case scenario as to how SB 1070 might be enforced. BREWER says that this law will be enforced without racial profiling. I take it, then, that she thinks that there is such a thing as racial profiling, and that she's going to see to it that there is no profiling when the law is enforced.

For the first step in the discussion, I thought I would describe profiling. What would it be like for Hispanics to be profiled? Do you think that there is a profiling line over which local law enforcement should not step? There is some cost in unequal treatment for other laws, but I am contending that, without safeguards that are not written into the language of 1070 itself, you have the possibility that local law enforcement will enforce the law in a way in which the cost in unequal treatment will outweigh the benefit of enhanced enforcement of the immigration law. In other words, is it worth it?

You could make the laws against murder a more effective deterrent by executing the prime suspect in a murder trial without a trial, or perhaps, without much of one. But most of us think the price in unjust prosecutions is too great to justify the increased deterrent and the fact that more guilty murderers getting what they deserve.

A whole group of people will be *systematically* treated differently by law enforcement than their fellow citizens if we profile, and most of those are hard-working, law-abiding citizens. This doesn't bother you.