Martin Castro, chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, while giving a talk recently in Lawrenceville, Ga., made a little joke. He said one in six Americans is a Latino — he paused and then added that the other five out of six Americans soon will be related to that one. He is correct. Your neighbors and co-workers today will likely become your in-laws tomorrow. Hence, I, and lots of others folks, would argue that any political group that angers the Latino community does so at its own peril.
Castro also told a story about his 10-year-old son. The story has the power of a Biblical parable illustrating the intrinsic dangers of state laws passed to hunt down illegal Latino immigrants in states such as Georgia, Alabama and Arizona. His son just started middle school when a group of kids came up to him and demanded to know if he was a legal or illegal alien. When he refused to answer that question, they wanted to know his national origin. When he refused to answer that question, they asked him to put his arms up against the wall because they were going to frisk him. That act, Castro reminds us, “Happens to individuals every day.”
Cops and robbers has always been among the games kids play. With the expanded power of our police to check your papers, that too becomes part of the game.
The United States of America I grew up in not long after World War II, shunned any attempt at having us show our papers because our young men and women had just ended fighting and dying to rid the world of needing to carry papers. Needing to show your papers was tantamount to being subjugated to a police state that preyed on minorities and dissidents. If you are Latino in the United States today, legal or not, the possibility of a nation where first the police, then your employers, then your neighbors, then the kids in the school yard, want proof you are as American as they are, is very real — and very dangerous because it never stops with just one group of people.
If we really want to demonstrate how American we are, let’s do so by demanding that the show-me-your papers laws in Georgia, Alabama and Arizona and everywhere else are rescinded, ripped up and thrown into the legislative trash barrel, where they belong.
Watch JJIE’s interview with Martin Castro below.