Court immigration decision has Ohio implications
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
June 25, 2012: The highly-debated U.S. Supreme Court decision on
the controversial Arizona immigration law could have a lasting
impact for Latinos in Ohio. There is particular concern among
legal scholars and Latino leaders that racial profiling
may be the norm.
founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee,
stated the court decision sets the stage for comprehensive
immigration reform, when taken alongside the president’s recent
executive order that undocumented immigrant students would not
be deported. But he is particularly concerned about the “show me
your papers” provision being left intact.
“I see it as a step in the right direction. It sends a message
to the states that immigration is a federal matter, not a state
matter,” he said. “The part left intact encourages profiling.
But the Supreme Court left it open to strike that down too, if
it’s enforced in a negative way. We hope to push the button on
that issue, because this is a continuous struggle.”
FLOC currently has a lawsuit pending on behalf of several
migrant farmworkers, alleging the U.S. Border Patrol
taught and conspired with three local police departments in
rural Northwest Ohio to conduct racial profile in a search for
“I think we have to be vigilant,” said Velásquez. “We need to
pursue that kind of litigation to hold them accountable for
those kinds of abuses.”
dean of the University of Toledo, College of Law, stated there
“absolutely” is the possibility racial profiling could
occur in Ohio under a provision of the Arizona law the Supreme
Court left intact allowing law enforcement to question the
immigration status of someone pulled over for a driving offense.
Steinbock explained that an immigration investigation only can
be triggered as a secondary offense, similar to Ohio’s ban on
texting while driving.
But the UT law school dean fears migrant farmworkers and others
in Northwest Ohio could still be a target of “driving while
brown.” Steinbock stated police officers “might get away
with it” by contacting federal authorities on their own if they
suspect someone is in the U.S. without documentation.
“If somebody is stopped for a crime or arrested for a crime and
there what is known as is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that they’re an
unauthorized immigrant, then they can be investigated for that
fact,” Steinbock said. “The potential for racial profiling,
I think, is quite high, because what gives you reasonable
suspicion someone is not a citizen and not a lawful immigrant?”
“Local police departments, although they’re not federal agents,
use their discretion as police officers to do all kinds of crazy
stuff,” Velásquez added.
Steinbock pointed out the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed
“apparent Mexican ancestry to be a factor” in investigating
other immigration cases.
“But they should not be pulled over just because an officer
thinks they look Hispanic,” said Steinbock. “He or she doesn’t
know if somebody’s here illegally or not. They can’t distinguish
at that point, so everyone who’s stopped and looks Hispanic can
be subjected to this, including natural-born citizens.”
Recent arrest incident in Toledo
Velásquez pointed to a recent incident where four Latinos were
searched for proper documentation after a Toledo police officer
pulled one of them over for driving without a license. The FLOC
leader called it “improper” to ask for identification from the
car’s passengers without probable cause.
One of the passengers had a valid driver’s license and Social
Security card, but had left it in another car. He was taken to
the police station because he had no documents on him.
“That’s just really totally uncalled for,” he said. “If I was a
Mexican police officer in Toledo doing that to white people,
because they look funny and talk with an accent and I think
they’re from some European country, I think they’d be hollering
all over the place.”
The FLOC president is now concerned that racial profiling
may become the norm in Toledo as a new police chief fights gang
and gun violence in the central city.
“The new police chief may not know anything about this issue,”
he said. “So we’ll be trying to arrange a meeting at some point
down the road when we get our community people together on this
Velásquez pointed out FLOC and other Latino leaders had “an
understanding” with former police chief Mike Navarre and
outgoing Lucas County Sheriff Jim Telb about how sensitive the
immigrant and Mexican communities are to contact with the
“We convinced them they want the Latino community to be helpful
with police in solving crimes,” he said. “If they’re afraid to
go to the police or if you have an undocumented worker who is
being indentured or coerced or abused or robbed of money and
he’s afraid to report the crime to the police, the criminals
will continue to do what it is that they do.”
There is concern the Supreme Court decision may renew the fears
undocumented immigrants and other Latinos previously had toward
law enforcement. The FLOC founder is particularly concerned if
word spreads of the recent Toledo police incident.
“It is better to have a community on your side than doubting who
you are or whether you’re going to abuse them or a family
member,” said Velásquez. “Local police ought to be out enforcing
local laws, not federal laws.”
“I don’t think it’s going to unleash a wave of discriminatory
checking at this point, once they see how it is applied,” he
said, predicting the provision may eventually be struck down as
the case is remanded back to lower state and federal courts for
consideration on other constitutional grounds.
The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union
applauded the Supreme Court decision in a statement, vowing to
be the organization to get rid of the
“show me your papers” provision of the Arizona immigration law
in future court cases as it continues to fight racial profiling.
“This decision clearly
shows that the federal government is responsible for creating
and enforcing immigration policy, not the state of Arizona,”
said Christine Link, executive director of ACLU-Ohio.
“The court’s ruling bolsters our arguments and serves as a
prelude to the work we will do to ensure that no one is
unconstitutionally targeted because of their race or ethnicity —
in Arizona, Ohio or anywhere else.”
The ACLU pointed out
migrant workers and others should feel a sense of relief that
the Supreme Court struck down any requirement that all
immigrants obtain or carry registration papers. It also struck a
provision that would allow for the warrantless arrest of
undocumented immigrants and another that would criminalize
employment for all undocumented workers.
The civil liberties group
also noted the high court made clear that its decision on the
“show me your papers” provision will not affect any legal
challenges that argue against the law on different grounds.
Those challenges were delayed, pending the outcome of the
Supreme Court case, but now can move forward.
“The court did not strike
down “show me your papers” but they certainly didn’t endorse
it,” said Ms. Link. “Our argument that “show me your papers”
provisions invite unconstitutional racial profiling will be
decided another day.”
Ohio version of the DREAM Act
Despite the Supreme
Court’s decision that federal law trumps state statutes on
immigration issues, a pair of Ohio lawmakers recently proposed
what they’re calling the Ohio version of the DREAM Act.
The bill is designed to make the children of illegal immigrants
eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid.
“This bill is necessary to
offer all students the chance of achieving the American dream,”
Sen. Charleta Tavares, (D-Columbus) told the Columbus
Dispatch. “This country was built on the foundation of
encouraging individuals to reach their highest potential. We
should not penalize young people for striving for success.”
The bill is modeled after
similar state laws in Texas and California. To be eligible, an
individual must graduate from an Ohio high school, have attended
high school in Ohio for three years before graduation, register
as an entering student not earlier than fall 2012, and provide
the college or university with an affidavit stating that student
will file an application to become a U.S. citizen or permanent