At the base of the Statue of Liberty, these words are carved in stone: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It was this welcoming, open-door policy that made America the land that dreams were made of. There was no gatekeeper at Ellis Island who said, “Oh, we didn’t really mean that. Your skin is too dark. You have too many kids. You think differently than we do. Your religion is wrong.”
But now we live in a society in which the state of Arizona can pass a law that allows any state or public official, including law enforcement, to request proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien. How frightening is it that we are regressing at such a pace and that so many fundamental rights that embodied the spirit of America are being systematically chipped away? The only way a public official or peace officer can suspect someone, at face value, of being an illegal alien is because of skin color. This law is discriminatory and targeted at specific populations.
Georgia (It is easy to get confused, but we are referring to the state within North America in this example, not the country that was formerly part of the USSR) followed suit and passed a nearly identical law that gives a ridiculous amount of power to police officers to question any person about their right to be there based solely on racial profiling. While we were born in America, as were our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Shadra has dark hair and exotic enough looks that she would fear being a target should she happen to travel in Arizona or Georgia.
The current legislation by Arizona and Georgia suggests that in comparison the potential exists for citizens of the European Union to have more freedom to get around in their home countries, where the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights mandates that “profiling will be considered as discriminatory (and therefore unlawful) where police powers are exercised in relation to individuals and the only or main reason for this is their race, ethnicity or religion.”
This is the United States, and immigration and identification requirements should be addressed on a national level. We or no one else should have to carry a birth certificate to travel through Arizona or Georgia, and we or no one else should have to worry that our children might be targeted because of the color of their hair, the color of their skin, or what religious artifacts they wear.
And if we are empowering peace officers to determine whether or not someone should reside here, what’s next: Laws that prevent us from speaking out against the government or a majority religion? Will we someday have to show that we have been baptized into an acceptable religion?
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, when the KGB started in what was the USSR, they were “responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, technical intelligence, protection of the political leadership, and the security of the country’s frontiers.” They evolved, however, conducting “most of its activities domestically, on Soviet soil and against Soviet citizens.”
With the growing fear of terrorism and the threat to entitlement benefits, the perceived duty to place blame or eliminate probable causes blinds us to the truth that we do not take to heart that all people are created equally. Like the Communist administrations we condemned years ago for crimes against citizens, we tread dangerous ground when we propose that officials may essentially interrogate someone walking on the street with no more reason than a suspicion that someone may not have the right to be an American based solely on the way they look.