Greetings, it has been a while. This blog entry will focus on some legal definitions and jargon, please bear with me. Before you take the journey into bipolar thought with me, digest this quote by, Charles C. Noble: “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”
From dictionary.com, the word propensity is defined as, pro·pen·si·ty
/prəˈpɛnsɪti/ Show Spelled[pruh-pen-si-tee]
noun, plural pro·pen·si·ties.
a natural inclination or tendency:
A group of individuals, according to crime reports, are more prone to commit certain crimes. Law enforcement has set up models that show what type of individual fits the profile of a criminal. We live in a society laced with stereotypes, with those stereotypes we start to label people as certain types of individuals. It's a psychological theory that I will not get too deep into, however, if you see someone of a certain ethnic background, in our minds we feel that are more "prone" to do a certain thing. What is this "thing" in law enforcement?
Reasonable suspicion means that the officer has sufficient knowledge to believe that criminal activity is at hand. (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Probable+Cause+and+Reasonable+Suspicion).
If a police officer sees someone who they believe is committing criminal activity they have satisfied their reasonable suspicion, or as I have called it, their propensity standard. Other factors are involved, like time, place, other actors - but a policeman can have reasonable suspicion and stop you if you fit a certain propensity profile. If you look like a person that is more prone to commit a crime, you can be stopped by law enforcement. Is this fair? Does this help law enforcement fight crime?
The new law in Arizona gives the police the ability to act on reasonable suspicion based on a person's profile. Law enforcement can pull over and detain someone based on how they look. That is simple and plain, and I am not here to take sides, just some background information.
The state of Arizona has a four pronged law, which is currently being heard at the Supreme Court (today is April 25, 2012). The law states:
-- A requirement that local police officers check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws if "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the United States illegally.
-- A provision authorizing police to arrest immigrants without warrant where "probable cause" exists that they committed any public offense making them removable from the country.
-- A section making it a state crime for "unauthorized immigrants" to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification.
-- A ban on those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work. That would include immigrants standing in a parking lot who "gesture or nod" their willingness to be employed.
Some may say that these four prongs will help fight the illegal immigration problem we have here in the United States of America; some say this is racial profiling.
The illegal immigration problem: it is unlawful, and a federal offense, for someone to illegally make their way into the United States of America. It is unlawful for someone to elude examination by immigration officers at the border, and it is unlawful for someone to willfully falsely represent their immigration status. The state of Arizona wants to be tough on crime; they want to prosecute anyone who is breaking this federal law. The state legislature in Arizona has decided to crack down on violation of Title 8 Section 1325 of the US Code, they would like to institute these safeguards and give law enforcement the authority to police these efforts. Now when someone is committing a crime, law enforcement will have the authority to check their "immigration" status, if they do not provide proper documentation they will be in violation of the Arizona law. Why is this a problem? Isn't this why we have law enforcement? Yes, it is a federal law, but the people of Arizona are fed up, and do not believe that the federal government is doing a good enough job to prevent this illegal activity.
Ok, the other side. Yes, we have federal laws in place to prevent improper entry into this country. That is what they are federal laws, handled by the federal government. It would be a violation to allow states to enforce their own version of this law, by allowing law enforcement to basically profile individuals, requiring them to provide documentation on site, and conduct warrantless searches based on how they look. Profiling is never a good thing when it comes to arresting someone, where is the officers "reasonable suspicion" coming from; just because someone looks illegal does that mean they are committing a crime? This law will only lead to more harassment and racial unrest. The legal persons in the state of Arizona will have to be on notice that law enforcement can stop them and ask them for documentation. Where else in this country does that happen? Law enforcement should not be allowed to stop someone based on how they look.
Are we going into a society, where propensity or habit can be directly linked to someone's race? Or do we sacrifice being stopped and checked for the good of protecting our borders? America was founded as a land of opportunity, that right came with some rules. America also was founded as a land of liberty. Stopping someone based on their race is hardly allowing them liberty to live free here. I would challenge law enforcement to be more specific about reasonable suspicion, and make sure they are not "reasonable suspicious" of only a certain race or class of people. The scholar Rubén Rumbaut analyzed census data from the year 2000 and found that incarceration rates among legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala were less than half the rate of U.S.-born whites. What do you think?