SB 1070 Preview: ICE Holds Puerto Rican Man They Assumed Was Mexican

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

If Sand Landers want a preview of how SB 1070 will play out on the street once it goes into effect at the end of July, they should look north to the Windy City.

There, a Puerto Rican man was threatened with deportation by ICE agents after being arrested by local cops in an incident involving a stolen car.

Eduardo Caraballo's mom tried to bail him out, but ICE wouldn't let him go. They suspected him of being illegal, though he is in fact an American citizen, born on the American territory of Puerto Rico.

Even after his mom, who is Mexican, presented federal authorities with Caraballo's birth certificate, ICE officers didn't believe he was here legally. 

They peppered him with questions about the Caribbean isle, but he didn't have the answers. He hasn't been to Puerto Rico since he was a teenager.

"Just because of the way I look, I have Mexican features, they pretty much assumed my papers were fake," Caraballo told a reporter for NBC Chicago.

"If I was white, they probably wouldn't even have questioned me," he continued. "I think that's totally unfair."

ICE continued to hold him until Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez got involved. (Note: Gutierrez is scheduled to be in the Valley for the big anti-SB 1070 march on Saturday.)

"The federal government with all their technology and all the information capacity that they have could not determine for three days his status as an American citizen," Gutierrez told a reporter.

Indeed, if ICE could not figure him out, what makes people think a local Arizona cop could?

SB 1070 mandates that if an officer has reasonable suspicion to believe someone is in the country illegally during any lawful stop, detention or arrest, that the cop check that person's immigration status. Such persons are essentially presumed to be aliens unless they present one of several forms of ID.

What if they don't have that ID on them, or the cop can't figure out if the ID's legit? They'll likely be held until ICE can make a determination, however long that takes.

Apparently, based on his features, the way he speaks and the fact that he had little knowledge of his birthplace, ICE officers believed Caraballo was here illegally. It's safe to think that an Arizona cop would make the same false assumption.

Caraballo's detainer was not an isolated incident. A CNN story on the case interviewed Northwestern University political science professor Jacqueline Stevens, who found that one percent of immigration case files she studied involved American citizens, some of whom were held for several months while ICE sorted them out.

Arizona is headed for a plethora of such incidents as local gendarmes try to play immigration enforcer on their beats with SB 1070 in their back pockets. People such as Caraballo will be profiled as a result. There will be false arrests and imprisonments, as well as the subsequent lawsuits and settlements. 

So take a good look at the video above. Unless SB 1070 is enjoined by a federal judge, we'll be seeing stories like this one over and over again.

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