Saturday, November 21, 2009

Profiling and immigration

Now that the semester is almost over, we have only two more meetings, I hope that we are all familiar with the many instances that have stressed race as a factor in setting immigration policy in the US. The most salient example of such a discriminatory policy is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The Chinese had started immigrating in large numbers to the United States in 1848 as a result of the Gold Rush. But as gold became more difficult to find and as unemployment increased after the civil war nativists resentment towards those that looked different grew and Congress was lobbied to exclude the Chinese from coming to the US. Ultimately the Supreme Court, in 1889, approved the Congress’ power to exclude and the act was even widened to include other Asians. This remained the case until 1943 when the exclusion was finally removed.
Ask yourself have things changed much over the past 120 years. The backlash then was against the Chinese, after all, they looked different and many were looking for an easy scapegoat. Currently it is the Hispanic that are blamed for everything from abuse of Medicare, to unemployment and one more time we have a strong lobby that wishes to stop immigration from the southern border. Things have progressively gotten more complicated after the dastardly events of 9/11. Currently the strict enforcement of laws, have ensnared many an innocent person whose only guilt is to be of an Arab decent or to belong to a Moslem sect.
Since there is no denying of the use of racial, religious and ethnic profiling by the Department of Homeland security then we have to ask ourselves whether such a use is justifiable. Let me be very clear about this, under the law as it now stands it is not illegal to use racial profiling in some sense in order to enforce the law. Most objections rest on the solid evidence that the broad use of this technique is totally ineffective. It just does not work. So what is to be done? May I suggest the adoption of positive selection instead of the broad nets that are currently used? What that simply means is that an individual is not subjected to strict and harsh selection criteria unless there is evidence that the person in question has close association with or is a member of a “dangerous” group. What do you think?


  1. What qualifies a group or an individual as "dangerous?" Who makes that decision? If we were to consider the backlash of the September 11th attacks, we'd see that the appropriation of terminology like dangerous and high-risk is severely overgeneralized, so that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have all of a sudden made up the entirety of the Muslim religion and the term terrorist immediately brings to mind an image of an individual in a head dress. There can be no justice in racial profiling; all allowing it does is allow for stereotypes and overgeneralized biases to exist freely and to hold foundation in some sort of legitimacy which is undeserved. "Strict and harsh" anything should not be administered in any circumstance solely because an individual fits the description; selection criteria should be given to individuals whose behaviors only, warrant it. Although the term "suspicious activity" has often been stretched to unjust extremes, it seems to be the fairest means of accessing a situation. An individual, at least in this country, is not guilty until proven so, and especially isn't guilty just because he happens to look like that guy who we couldn't catch but who sent us some tapes to remind us that he looks like this guy who is innocent but who we caught and are going to prosecute. If that last sentence sounded convoluted and nonsensical, then you have read it correctly. Three cheers for democracy. Too bad I don't know arabic or else I could have written that last sentence in it and found myself being interrogated in the morning by the FBI. Oh well, good 'ol non-terrorist-like english will have to do.

  2. I think the whole topic of racial profiling is very subjective. In many instances racial profiling can be justified, but the majority of the time, it is an excuse. Although we have seen racial segregation and punishment throughout the history of our country, I truly believe it is human nature to associate race with issues. I believe this all stems from intolerance, and miseducation or lack thereof. Muslims and Arabs were attacked after 9/11 and are still spotlighted today because of the war in Iraq. We are quick to judge and place blame when we cannot find the answer. Are we necessarily wrong to do so? No. Do I believe it is just? No. The government does not help to prevent these sentiments though and who is to know whether or not they will step up their game and create awareness? If Americans weren't so sheltered and American happy we would understand immigrants and their lives away from what they once called home.

  3. I wish that I could sit here and say that it there will come a time when Americans will eliminate the use of racial profiling. However, the reality is that that will never happen. It has happened in the past and has gotten progressivly worse as we head into our future. I think it is disgusting for one human being to label another as part of a "dangerous" group based on their color or ethicity. And besides, what exactly makes ONE group of people dangerous. There are people from all different types of groups and cultures who are good and those who will commit crimes. Each culture takes their fare share of people who hold some bad qualities. However, this does not mean that one whole group of people should be penalized for the actions of a small group. The events that took place on 9/11 were more than unfortunate. But the fact that members of the Arab community were so harshly scrutinized for it is ridiculous. To have innocent families stopped at airports because of racial profiling is truly insane and an insult to them from our American government, the one that most of them call their own. I believe that not enough people are well informed on these issues which is why they will jump to make uneducated judgments against others.