The Tapatio Test: The Art and Science of Reasonable Suspicion

Why is it that folks in power – smart, educated folks never seem to understand the meaning of the term “racial profiling?” Why do they all turn deaf, dumb and blind when we ask what makes suspicion reasonable? Perhaps Al Sharpton is on the right path: give ’em an example they can understand, perhaps if we had “a law saying we’re looking for people that look Canadian in the state of Vermont” then it would FINALLY be clear. That would definitely be racial profiling. Now, Governor Jan n’em will tell ya that there’s a provision in the law that makes profiling illegal but I would tell them that makin’ something illegal don’t keep it from happening. In fact, if it did, we wouldn’t need the law in the first damn place. I mean ain’t it illegal to come here without permission?

Although we’re talking about racial profiling, I won’t go so far as to call the new law racist or ask whether the entire AZ State Legislature starred in O Brother, Where Art Thou? I won’t point out that this new law has less to do with immigration and more to do with Arizona deciding they have enough Mexicans. I won’t do it. I’ll just concede that it’s not racist because I don’t want to waste the energy debating whether or not folk who shoot at Mexicans with their BB guns are racist. Of course they’re not! These are just good decent lawmaking folks who loves them some Mexican people. There’s Maria who does the wash…love her! There’s Jose who cuts the grass…love him! There’s Paco who put the addition on the house without the permit…love, LOVE him!! Whatever! Quite frankly, it just doesn’t matter here.

What does matter here is whether or not we are legislating opportunities for those folks to cross the thin line between reasonable suspicion and attempting to legally establish first the probability, then the propensity for someone to commit a crime based on race or ethnicity. It is the very definition and danger of racial profiling. The impacts are far-reaching and frightening for a country who is just one or two generations removed from a history of young men swinging from trees under the guise of reasonable suspicion. This is not how we want our sons to reach high places. And to suggest that there are protections available in the words, “reasonable suspicion” is both misleading and offensive, not to illegal immigrants, but to American citizens whose rights and liberties are being trampled in the face of the very Constitution that was designed to protect us from these abuses.

Proponents of the law will say that those who do not believe po-po can be trusted to enforce this law responsibly don’t have a problem with the law, we have a problem with law enforcement. This is a semantic maneuver, at best. So, let’s just take it there. Nope, I don’t trust the po-po to ensure that my rights and the rights of other colored folk are protected. Sorry, we ain’t got a great history together. Not to say that all cops are racist. Hell, this is not to say ANY cops are racist. I have met some wonderful (and quite sexy) cops, really, I have. But reasonable suspicion for an immigration law by definition ain’t gonna be pointin’ at nobody that looks like Opie. From the DOOR, a reasonable person singles out people based on race or ethnicity. So, a reasonable person is forced to do a racist thing under this law. White folks ain’t even gonna make it to the lineup. So, can someone please tell me, how something that starts out dividing folks turns into something that’s “indivisible with liberty and justice for all?”

The resolution seems a simple one to me. Clearly define reasonable suspicion. Make this an issue of criminal profiling, not racial profiling. Let reasonable suspicion be based on triggers and behavior patterns of those come to this country illegally, not appearance or accent. And then? Question anyone, regardless of race, who fits the profile. No, really…I think that’s it. Hear me out! If you walk into Tito’s Tacos and there’s a white guy putting Tapatio sauce on everything and a Mexican guy eating a taco, wearing a Mexican flag on his back, with grass stains on his knees, and fence marks on his shirt, eyes darting around suspiciously, hiding behind his menu. In spite of what your gut tells you, question the white guy…it’s just criminal to put Tapatio on everything!

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10 thoughts on “The Tapatio Test: The Art and Science of Reasonable Suspicion

  1. Most people in America aren’t against immigration; they’re just against illegal immigration. For example, like most of our ancestors, my mother’s parents were immigrants. They came through Ellis Island and followed the various legal steps required in order to establish themselves as true citizens of this country. The immigrants crossing the Mexican border, however, have absolutely no interest in following these legal protocols. Once they cross the border, they change their names and/or purchase social security numbers in an effort to conceal their true identities from the law. It is not uncommon for an illegal immigrant to purchase not one, but two or more social security numbers, just in case one is flagged. I have witnessed this crime with my own eyes. (One day, a supposedly legal immigrant was asked to give their social security card to a receptionist for a job application and an interview. When the receptionist happened to ask to see the card a second time, the immigrant mistakenly handed over a different social security card with the same name on it, but with a completely different set of numbers…)

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Hispanics. I have many Hispanic friends, but they either have green cards to work in the United States or have become legal citizens. They decided to follow the rule of law and work within the boundaries of our legal system. Unfortunately, many immigrants do not, and it is those particular individuals that we are most concerned about.

    Now it seems that those who sympathize with illegal immigrants wish to hijack the discussion of reform by attacking the law recently imposed by the State of Arizona through protests and boycotts; a state mind you, that has been besieged with crime, drugs and an ever-increasing population of illegal immigrants. Don’t allow them this option. Speak out and take action. This is your country… fight for it.

    In closing, I consider myself to be a bleeding-heart liberal: a Democrat. My ancestor, Roger Williams – the founder of Rhode Island and founder of the First Baptist Church in America, was one too; regarding the acceptance of different nationalities, cultures and religions as the vitality and lifeblood of any country. Nevertheless, I think that he would agree with me; that immigrants wishing to become legal citizens have not only the obligation, but the civil and legal responsibility to follow the rules of law established by any country in which they wish to become authentic citizens, just as our ancestors – both yours and mine – struggled so arduously and righteously to achieve.

    • Hi, Destructionist! don’t think I’ve seen you post here before so it’s a pleasure to meet you. Just spent a few minutes on your blog and I look forward to reading more, particularly about Roger Williams.

      I think that somehow this issue has become unnecessarily polemical where in order to be against the AZ’s immigration law, one must necessarily be for illegal immigration. The media has a tendency to do this to us, I think for a better story. Outside of those seeking asylum, the folks who come here illegally are breaking the law and should be treated as such. My problem with this law is not its treatment of illegal immigrants. My problem wiht this law is its treatment of people who are here legally but LOOK or SOUND the same as those who are not, particuarly when they are American citizens. Because profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity has never, ever worked out well for the targeted group…in the history of mankind. Ever.

      So, I’m not saying the law is inherently bad, I’m saying it’s dependence on what could easily be considered racial profiling by it’s very definition, let alone its execution, is bad…and unlawful. I believe it has the potential to be a direct violation of the 14th Amendment rights of Mexican-Americans and naturalized Mexicans and a mockery of the Fourth. As citizens of a republic, we fight for our country by fighting for the Constitution that governs it and each one of us.

      But I completely agree, and I think others have posted on the previous post about it, that legal immigration is something that we must insist upon and enforce.

  2. Funny thing is we have had terrorists enter the US via the Canadian Border (LAX bomber).

    While I am not a fan of “big perm”, the truth (when applied fairly) is always consistent, thus his example shows the folly in this law

  3. Instead of dealing with the real issue of immigration reform, AZ goes and passes this foolywang nonsense of a bill. This country needs to stop acting like we don’t need immigrants.

    The real truth is that there are alot of small, local economies in the US that depend on illegal immigrants (7-11, hotels, the used Honda/Toyota market, McDonalds, Walmart, hell even the Chinese food stores are hiring hispanic immigrants). I’m not trying to be funny but it seems that the “powers that be” would rather send folks back then figure out a way to let them in and charge them. I still say the US needs to follow in the foot steps of the Sunshine state and tax the hell out of those who want to come, visit and squat.

    • I think you nailed it. The truth is as long as a local economy is in need of cheap labor, illegal immigration is not a problem. As soon as the illegals start to become “too well off” – and well off could be as simple as availing themselves of a public service like a library – then all of a sudden they’re a problem. Don’t get me wrong, illegal immigration is…well, illegal and should be dealt with as such. HOWEVER, is Arizona having a problem with immigration or do they no longer have a need for Mexicans. The neighboring state, which if I’m not mistaken shares the same border, doesn’t even require proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license. So, all of the Mexicans will go there and build out the infrastructure at a low cost to the gov’t, get it all cleaned up and all of a sudden the whole in the fence will be too big. These folks need to get real, if you have a problem with it…then have a problem with it all the time, not just when it’s convenient!

  4. What about folks that marry citizens while on work or student visas…file all the paperwork and then they are told that they have to leave for 10 years before they can re-enter legally. Many soldiers are running into this issue with their spouses and are fearful of deploying due to the risk their spouse may be deported in their absence

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