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What Does an Illegal Immigrant Look Like?

May 5, 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve undoubtedly heard of the recent passing of SB1070 in Arizona that allows police officers to demand citizenship documents from people who “appear” illegal.  In response to the obvious question of what makes one “appear” illegal, Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer responded with: “I don’t know what an illegal immigrant looks like.”

First let me say…yeah, right.  It’s completely illogical and nonsensical to pass a bill allowing for something that cannot be defined.  But then again, Jon Stewart did call Arizona the “meth lab” of the United States, so perhaps everyone out there is strung out while they pass legislature.  That would explain why they recently passed a bill banning genetic research combining humans with animals based solely on the sci-fi possibility that it will happen in the future.  These people are crazy.

But I’ve decided to help Governor Brewer and her police force out and let them know what to look for when trying to discern if a person is indeed illegally in the country.  However, from this point forward I will refer to this group as undocumented workers, since the vast majority of immigrants who illegally cross the borders work hard each, and every, day.

The first thing you want to look for is what the person is wearing.  Many undocumented workers work for wages that are illegal in the U.S. but that employers can get away with because this group has no way to officially complain.  Therefore, many undocumented workers wear second-hand clothes and are often forced to mend their clothes once they wear through instead of buying new ones.  This is tricky though because many of their children wear similar clothes, since they are dependent on their parents.

You may also want to look at a person’s hands.  Undocumented workers work long, hard hours picking our fruit, planting beautiful landscapes, building our houses, taking care of our children, cleaning our homes, and working factory lines to ensure the products that we like to get are at those cheap prices we like even more.  Their hands often show the wear and tear from this back-breaking work, as does the rest of their body which is usually worn much faster than for those of us who are able to avoid these jobs (and many of us do).

Lastly, you may want to look at a person’s eyes.  For those undocumented workers who have recently entered the country, there is a light of hope.  Because no one believes in the American Dream more so than those who leave their loving families and beloved home countries to make a better life for their loved ones.  However, undocumented workers who have been here for a generation ore more might be less hopeful and their eyes may seem sad after seeing many of their children lost to drugs, gangs, and teen pregnancy.  Because even though these children are U.S. citizens (many of them never having stepped foot in their parents’ countries of origin) they are not given the same opportunities in school and are held to low expectations from their teachers and guidance counselors.  They are often discriminated against even when they do “make it,” for example by being asked for their citizenship papers or told that their English is “really good.”  Living the American Dream is not enough to actually make them American.

But even though the life of an undocumented worker is a hard one, if you look carefully around the mouth and forehead, you will see laugh lines.  Undocumented workers often have strong family ties either with actual family or with pseudo-families here in the States.  They work hard to advance everybody in the group, and lean on each other when it gets really tough.  And they love this country just as much as they miss the country that they were forced to leave.  They laugh often and con ganas.  And like everybody else, they look forward to weddings, birthdays, and holidays so that even if for a little while they can enjoy life as it is meant to be enjoyed – with loved ones, who may or may not be citizens or even from their own ethnic group.

Given these signs, it shouldn’t be difficult for police officers in Arizona to pick out who is an undocumented worker and who isn’t.  But maybe they’ll think twice about whether or not they really want to.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo everyone!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2010 2:16 pm

    I find it interesting that those who defend this law do not believe it promotes racial profiling. Your post just highlights how impossible it would be to NOT racially profile people. (oops, am I just stating the obvious?)

    Karl Kobach wrote an editorial in the NYTimes defending the law he helped write and states that “Reasonable suspicion” will not permit police misconduct…really??? Do you really think so Karl Kobach?

    Cause when asked how police will determine who is an illegal alien and who is not, U.S Rep Brian Bilbray said, “They will look at the kind of dress you wear, there’s different type of attire, there’s different type of …right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes. But mostly by behavior it’s mostly behavior…”

    In regards to the clothing comment, I don’t think I even need to elaborate on how wrong that is. And “behavior…” you know, cause those illegal immigrants will be partaking in some shady behavior just b/c they’re illegal, or god forbid they congregate as a community…

    (erm…I only wish this post wasn’t directly followed by a message about the Better Marriage Blanket…)

  2. smartiepop permalink*
    May 5, 2010 7:53 pm

    Comic relief. I like your “Do you really think so Karl Kobach?” =P

  3. May 13, 2010 5:12 am

    That’s excellent, RJ. Unfortunately, you can’t make people think if they don’t want to.

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