You Look Illegal…Show Me Your Papers


Last month, District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that police authorities in Arizona could enforce what is arguably one of the most divisive provisions of the state’s immigration law.  As CNN reported, this “show me your papers” provision essentially gives police the power to call someone’s immigration status into question if they simply believe that they do not have the legal documents to verify it — namely, that they seem to be in the country illegally.

District Judge Susan Bolton

This law originally took effect in 2010, but various provisions have been voted on over the past two years.

In my opinion, this provision is completely ridiculous.  First of all, it relies upon the subjective judgment of the Arizona police force.  They need have no reason for questioning the status of a person other than some kind of “inkling” or feeling that someone appears to be an illegal immigrant.  The margin of error this leaves is way too high for my liking and does not seem appropriate for such a large-scale law.  Additionally, the nature of this subjective judgment is reminiscent of many of the racial profiling issues that the country has had over the years, ranging from African-Americans to Arab-Americans.  While the reasoning behind the provision seems legitimate, it seems that this may lead to yet another American minority group being targeted.  I understand that the government wants to restrict illegal immigration, but I’m not sure this was the way to go about doing so.  Who’s to say that the law won’t do more harm than good when American citizens who happen to be Hispanic are targeted because they look “illegal”?  Will allowing police to stop whoever they think may be in the country illegally really have the intended effect?

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5 thoughts on “You Look Illegal…Show Me Your Papers

  1. I think a police already has power to detain you for a specific amount of time for investigation if you look suspicious. I don’t think the immigration law gives police extra power in this respect. But I totally agree with you that the law increase some minority groups’ probability of being targeted by the police force and that’s definitely unfair!

  2. It’s definitely unfair for police to be able to question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant. Where do they draw the line between who looks legal and who looks illegal? I understand that the government is trying to restrict illegal immigration, but I definitely agree with you that the way they are going about fixing the problem is completely wrong.

  3. I think this issue is similar to the issue of racial profiling in airpot security. While immigrants are being stopped simply because they may look illegal, many people are being screened in airport security simply because they may look arabic or middle eastern. While I understand the need for extra security and individual screenings to prevent terrorist attacks, there are many cases in which people are unfairly targeted. A family friend of mine is a very successful businessman and travels a lot to meet with clients. Despite the fact that he flies first class, is always well presented, and grew up in the US, he is screened individually almost every time he flies because his parents are arabic and his name is clearly middle eastern. It is embarrassing, uncomfortable, and unfair for people who may look middle eastern or like an immigrant to be targeted and questioned.

  4. This law is unnecessary and accomplishes nothing. No good can ever come from racial profiling. If illegal immigrant made the trek into the United States and aren’t doing anything wrong, then let them stay. It will be easier to fix the problem by targeting the prevention of more coming into the US. But, trying to kick out those who are already here is just a waste of time and resources.

  5. I agree with all of the above, that law is completely unjust and a waste of police resources and taxpayer money. The Arizona police would be better served stopping actual criminals than racially profiling people. You would think that the widespread outrage from the rest of the country would give the AZ lawmakers pause.

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