Saw this go down yesterday….
Let’s face it, Arizona’s notorious for its law that, according to some interpretations, allows racial profiling by the police. The most minor traffic infraction has the potential to result, ultimately, in deportation for undocumented immigrants. Locally, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s been Maricopa County’s sheriff since 1993, was reelected again last month despite a recent FBI investigation into alleged abuses of power by his department. Those allegations were never proven, however, and the investigation closed.
My brother’s warned me about the cops around here. He said he’s been harassed, just for being Mexican. I’m only half-Mexican, having a lighter complexion and would probably be targeted for my age, if anything. On a side note, the weird thing is I might as well be an alien when I’m in Oregon. (And yes, this is a testament to Oregon’s lack of cultural diversity, something rarely considered when people talk of supposedly progressive places like Eugene and Portland.) Even some Mexicans up there automatically speak Spanish to me, which some of my family in southern California finds pretty amusing.
And speaking of my family, it’s interesting how strongly they feel about immigrants, specifically the Mexican ones who’ve yet to learn English. It actually surprised me when I first heard them talk, rather critically, about a group of people I thought they’d sympathize with. But no, they’re pretty militant about it. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my grandfather came here legally through the Bracero Program (speaking of a strong arm, the literal translation of the word) and ended up working on the railroads for the rest of his life. And this was despite coming from a fairly well-to-do family of plantation owners in Veracruz, Mexico. (Family legend has it they once hosted Pancho Villa on their ranch; or more accurately, he made himself at home.) He shared that same dream of America as a place of greater opportunity that continues to attract immigrants from all over the world. And once he came here as a young man, he never went back. Ever. Now his legacy is that of a large, thriving, and proud Mexican-AMERICAN family.
In any case, I don’t want to get political here. It’s a complicated subject and I’m not as interested in those conversations as I was in my younger days, possibly due to having worked for local government and seen firsthand just how flawed the system is in this country. And when I say the system is flawed, I really mean humans are flawed and it’s something I’m more accepting of as I get older.
But it was with all this in mind when I observed a traffic stop yesterday. Three patrol cars, four deputies, a vehicle search, and the whole nine before these two gentlemen were left to go on their way.
The cause- changing lanes without signaling. I know this because the deputy felt a need to speak very loudly to who I can only assume are not native English speakers. And keep in mind this town has some of the worst elderly drivers I’ve ever seen, and not once since I’ve been here have I seen any of them pulled over by the cops. And I’m pretty sure if I did, they wouldn’t be pulled out, sat on the curb, and have their vehicle searched, too. (Granted, this is solely based on my own limited observation and perhaps they are throwing grannies to the curb and I just haven’t seen it yet.)
Regardless, is this kind of treatment fair? For not signaling when he changed lanes? You be the judge. (And I should be clear, the deputies weren’t overtly hostile in any way and I’m speaking more to the application and process of the law itself.)
In my mind, if this is Sheriff Joe’s way of “reaching out” to the Latino community- something he promised to do after his recent reelection- he’s not going to be making many new friends.