Monday, June 7, 2010

First Official Blog post....

Nuestras Voces would like to welcome Professor Pedro Malavet, a law professor at the University of Florida. He is a prolific author and an engaging writer. Here is his first post as one of our editors:

Why I Always Carry my Passport

I just got back to my home in Gainesville, Florida, after almost three weeks traveling to Uruguay and Argentina via Brazil. Naturally, I had to carry my United States passport during this trip and presented it whenever I crossed an international border at an airport or seaport. But my passport remained in the hotel room safe when I was not in transit.

In the United States, however, my passport is almost always with me. I have been carrying it whenever I travel internally and at most times on a daily basis since September 11, 2001, when I realized that racial profiling would become rampant, especially during travel.

Do I “look” Arab, Middle-Eastern, Mexican, Puerto Rican? Can you tell the difference? More importantly, how will any random U.S. law enforcement official classify me for whatever subjective purpose he or she might have?

Defenders of Arizona’s SB 1070 say that it is not about racially-profiling Latinas/os generally, especially Latina/o citizens of the United States. I do not believe these claims, and actual conduct makes me even more skeptical. Take the case of Eduardo Caraballo. Like me, he was born in the United States territory of Puerto Rico has thus been a citizen of the United States from the moment of his birth. He has spent most of his life in Illinois. He was arrested in a Chicago suburb because local police found a stolen car in a storage facility at his place of work. While he maintains that he did not know the car was stolen, the arrest appears to be a legitimate initial intervention by law enforcement of the type required by the Arizona law, and his guilt or innocence on the stolen car matter will be determined in due course.

But when his mother came to post his bail, she was told that he could not be released because he was subject to an “immigration hold” and to possible deportation as an undocumented immigrant. The police had “reasonable suspicion” that he was an undocumented immigrant and referred the matter to federal immigration authorities. Again, just as required by the Arizona law. Caraballo’s mother presented authorities with his identification and his birth certificate issued by Puerto Rican authorities. He was then interrogated by federal immigration authorities about Puerto Rico —a place he had left as a toddler and had little memory of— apparently in order to determine the bona fides of the documents. The paperwork was apparently not enough for the authorities, the answers to the questions were unconvincing to the interrogators. All of these subjective judgments by local and federal authorities, in spite of the kind of identification that is generally described as acceptable for anyone else, led to the detention of Mr. Caraballo. It was not until his congressman intervened that he was released from the immigration hold.

Can you prove that you are a U.S. citizen, right here, and right now? I am not taking any chances.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful points Professor. Thank you. I will remember this account.


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