No doubt you've heard of driving while brown, particularly regarding Arizona's infamous ethnic cleansing law Senate Bill 1070.
Well, if you're Hispanic and plan to continue living in this state, get ready for running-out-of-gas-while-brown, walking-to-the-7-Eleven-while-brown, picking-up-your-kids-from-school-while-brown, going-to-work-while-brown, and while you're at it, add in witnessing- or being-a-victim-of-a-crime-while-brown.
Not that blatant racial profiling doesn't already occur here in Sand Land. Everyone's familiar with ye ol' broken taillight, that fave bogus pretext of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's boys-in-beige for stopping anyone darker than eggshell.
But the recent experience of Jesus Aguilar, a 52 year-old day laborer unlucky enough to run out of gas in the Palomino area of North Phoenix, offers a peek at how common and widespread such racial profiling soon will become in Arizona.
At a press conference held at Tonatierra's Macehuallii Work Center, Aguilar told reporters through his interpreter, human rights advocate Salvador Reza, that he was pushing his vehicle out of traffic Wednesday with the assistance of a friend, when a Phoenix Police Officer by the name of Ryder, pulled up behind him.
According to Aguilar, Ryder didn't offer to assist, but rather asked him for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Aguilar said he had the latter, but not the former. He claims he showed Ryder an I.D., but Ryder was more interested in the expired visa in Aguilar's wallet.
Soon Ryder was on the phone to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, inquiring about Aguilar's immigration status. Aguilar was then arrested, taken to a police station in Sunnyslope, and turned over to ICE.
But, likely because Reza was soon raising Cain about Aguilar's arrest, ICE quickly released Aguilar on his own recognizance, with a court date before an immigration judge in July..
Aguilar had committed no crime. Instead, Ryder ended up citing Aguilar for two civil traffic offenses: driving without a license and without proof of insurance. Reza and Aguilar charge that Ryder used these civil offenses to play immigration cop and seek to have Aguilar deported.
"Any other officer, if [Aguilar] had been any other color, any other culture, would have probably tried to assist," Reza claimed. "Instead, [Aguilar] got transferred to ICE."
Reza used the incident to blast the Phoenix Police Department over its Operations Order 4.48, the department's immigration policy, revised in the wake of SB 1070, or at least that part of the law not enjoined by the federal court in 2010.
Generally, that operations order leaves it to an officer's discretion as to when or if to inquire about the immigration status of anyone that officer comes in contact with, including consensual interactions with individuals to encounters with victims, witnesses or perpetrators.
"This is not an isolated incident," Reza insisted. "It's happening all over the city. And the Operations Order 4.48...is nothing less than SB 1070 on steroids."
Maybe not on steroids, but the operations order does reflect the provision in 1070 that a police department cannot limit the enforcement of federal immigration statutes "to less than the full extent permitted by federal law."
That provision was not enjoined by the federal court. Nor was the provision that allows legal residents of Arizona to sue any state or local government agency if it attempts to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration law as stated above.
Once the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the enjoined sections of 1070, and, as many expect will happen, lifts the injunction on the section of the law that requires cops to inquire after immigration status, incidents such as the one involving Aguilar will increase exponentially.
Phoenix's new Police Chief Daniel Garcia has been quoted as saying that Phoenix cops don't and won't stop people randomly.
"Unless you have reasonable belief that a crime has occurred, you don't have a reason to stop anybody," he told a reporter recently.
If so, what was Ryder's "reasonable belief" that Aguilar had committed a crime? If Ryder had one, the cop was dead wrong, because Aguilar was cited with two civil offenses.
Moreover, Aguilar is accused by ICE of being removable from the country, not of a criminal immigration offense. Which could be one reason ICE cut him loose with a court date.
In fact, it's possible Ryder may have violated the current operations order by not releasing Aguilar after citing him.
See, the operations order allows an officer to contact ICE, but it also states that an officer "may not extend a stop/detention based upon...federal civil charges."
Reza called for an explanation of the episode from Garcia. When I contacted the Phoenix PD for comment, a spokesman told me the matter is under internal review and there would be no additional comment at this time.
If you're on the pro-1070 side of the fence, you might think, "So what? The guy should be deported. He's here illegally."
And you may applaud the impending cessation of the injunction on the "papers please" portion of 1070. Because, in reality, nativists want more incidents just like this one. The purpose of 1070 being "attrition through enforcement," after all.
But here's a thought for you: What if Aguilar had just witnessed someone you love being stabbed? Would you want him to feel comfortable approaching the police and telling the cops who knifed your loved one?
What if an undocumented woman is attacked. Would you want her to feel comfortable talking with law enforcement about a suspect who might go on to attack you or a family member of yours?
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And if someone you know or care about looks Latino? Would you care if they are routinely asked to show proof they are in the country legally?
If you don't care about any of these scenarios, much less the economic impact of driving even more Hispanics from the state, then you're correct, what happened to Aguilar shouldn't concern you.
But if any of them trouble you, you'll even be more troubled later this month, when the Supremes lay down their decision on 1070.