Thursday, April 29, 2010

May I see your papers, please?

When I was a kid and we would play “Army,” often the kids playing the German’s would say something like, “May I see your papers please?” And you would answer, “This is America. It’s a free country. I don’t need to show you anything.” Then we would all laugh. World War II was big theme in these games, because of all the movies about it made in the sixties (the time I was in elementary school).

Consequently we, as a cooperative society believed (and still do) that people in the United States have the right to travel and associate without being monitored or stopped by their government, unless actually suspected or convicted of a crime (and unless that suspicion is reasonable). This is an understanding that stands on the back of decades and centuries of court decisions about the rights of innocent Americans. And when this is taken away, it feels as if we don’t live in a free country. In fact it eerily resembles life in a totalitarian state, where you need the permission of the government to think, to write, to speak, to move from place to place.

In a free country, we have always been under the assumption that people going about their lawful business cannot be compelled to identify themselves, especially when they are engaged in activities protected under the Constitution. This is called—anonymity. In Talley v. California (1960), the Supreme Court stated that “It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes.”

Remember your history please…The Federalist Papers, which explained the justification for the American Revolution, were written anonymously, and were published with pseudonyms.

Now in Arizona, a new law has been passed where the law entails that any person who “looks illegal” could be asked to provide proof of citizenship at any time. Skin color, accent or dress can trigger a police officer to stop someone. In fact, a truck driver with a commercial driver’s license was just pulled over while driving “through” Arizona because he had brown skin. When he showed the proper identification, it was not sufficient enough for the police officer, who then asked to be shown a birth certificate. I ask you—who carries their birth certificate around with them?

So, for those of you, who happen to have the misfortune to live or pass through that totalitarian state of Arizona, I say—defend your rights.

If you are pulled over by the police, don’t talk to them about your immigration status or anything else. Terminate any police encounter as soon as possible, and never consent to any search, and assert your right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer. This is because the police officer is required; if (1) they are in lawful contact with you and (2) they have “reasonable suspicion,” to “attempt…to determine” your immigration status. This obligation is on the police officer, not on you. There seems to be nothing in the law that purports to create any obligation on you to assist in that “attempt…to determine” your status, to answer any questions, to carry or produce or display ID, or to consent to a search for evidence of identity or immigration status.

Of course, most people don’t know this…and that’s just the way they want it.

Boycott Arizona!!!