New racial profiling guidelines create some serious problems

by Mario T. García

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Attorney General Eric Holder has announced new guidelines on racial profiling for federal law enforcement agencies in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., and New York police killings of two African-American men.

The new rules will extend a ban on profiling based on race and ethnicity to now include religion, national origin, and gender. Besides the FBI and other federal agencies, the guidelines for the first time will also include the Department of Homeland Security. However, it is in this latter inclusion that some serious problems emerge.

Homeland Security through its immigration enforcement such as customs, border patrol, and transportation security will still be allowed to stop anyone perceived to be of Mexican/Latino origins and living along the border and ask them for identification. This is unacceptable and perhaps even unconstitutional.

There is lack of due process and, more importantly, denial of equal protection of the law. It continues to perpetuate the stereotype that people of Mexican/Latino descent are largely "illegal aliens" and further fuels the flame of nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the country. This sentiment has been responsible for preventing immigration reform through its tea party and other Republican connections.

This move continues to suggest that Latinos are not "real Americans" and that they pose a threat to American society and culture. Nonsense! The fact is that the large majority of Latinos in the U.S. are either U.S.-born or legal residents, but this exception to Holder's guidelines only perpetuates a different and racist view and intensifies tensions along the border.

It is in part racist because it suggests that you can tell by looks if someone is Mexican or Latino. What does this mean to "look Mexican"? To suggest this is to engage in racist stereotyping. Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos as a whole cover the entire phenotype, from very light to very dark and everything in between.

This is the result of the history of 300 years of Spanish colonialism in Mexico and Latin America, when Spanish conquerors and settlers rather than killing off the indigenous peoples instead used them as forced labor and in the process had sexual relations with the women. They also in some areas brought in African slaves and mated with the women. The results were different biological mixtures, such as the mestizos, composed of Spanish and native genes. But even the mestizos could span from very light to very dark.

There is no such thing as "looking Mexican." I have cousins in northern Mexico who are blonde and blue-eyed. Are they Mexicans? Of course they are. So how are federal officials to determine along the border who is Mexican? They obviously will only focus on dark-skinned people, some of whom may not even be Mexican but of other national origins. In doing so, they expand racial profiling.

Immigration officials should focus primarily on people who are clearly crossing the border without documents rather than stopping people at bus stations, downtown areas, or airports based on skin color. This smacks of a police state and only continues to scapegoat people of Mexican and Latino descent. Holder needs to spend more time focusing on vicious police attacks, such as occurred in Ferguson and New York City, rather than profiling Mexicans and Latinos.

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