Rep. Grijalva: Arizona Immigration Law Profiles People Just As Trayvon Martin Was Profiled

March 27, 2012 - 10:09 PM


Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) (AP Photo)

( - Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said on Tuesday that Arizona's immigration-enforcement law will cause people to be "profiled" in that state just as Trayvon Martin was profiled in Florida.

Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was allegedly shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Florida in February, a case that has inflamed racial sensitivities. Zimmerman's father is White and his mother is Hispanic.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.), and Grijalva talked about the Supreme Court taking up Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law (SB 1070). A reporter asked if it was “fair” for Clyburn and Jackson-Lee to have invoked the memory of Martin at the event. 

Rep. Grijalva responded, “I think profiling is a fair issue. At the heart of one of the constitutionality [arguments] is the requirement of local police to do a profiling assessment as to whether there is reasonable suspicion this person might be undocumented illegal or not.”

“So let’s extend that premise that if a young African American male walking in the neighborhood is profiled as potentially a criminal,” he said. “So yeah, the link is between when you begin to profile people based on how they look and you begin to profile people based on that criteria, only the consequences are not ever good.”

At the press conference, the lawmakers announced that 68 of their colleagues had signed and filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the Obama administration’s opposition to SB 1070. The administration is arguing that the law is unconstitutional because it preempts federal authority over the nation’s immigration laws.

“I’m here today because I really believe that we cannot stay silent when we have these kinds of things taking place,” said Clyburn. “We have just seen in Florida what can happen if we allow these kinds of laws to go unchecked.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). ( Starr)

“Remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’” Clyburn later added. “And I do believe that, as we say in rural vernacular, ‘it may be somebody else’s number now, but my number is soon to come if we don’t check these laws.’”

Rep. Jackson-Lee compared wearing a hoodie, as Martin was wearing when he was shot, to having tanned skin.

“We understand that we live in a nation that we all are different,” she said. “In one case, a hoodie equals suspicion, in another case it is the tanness [sic] of your skin or the coloration of your skin or may be the configuration of your face. And so what you have done is you have passed a law that speaks and daggers the first amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, [and] freedom of access.”

“And so when a family gets into a car in Arizona Tucson, Phoenix and other beautiful places and drives for a Sunday service, a mass, a picnic, you’ve now vested innocently in law enforcement officers, who all of us respect, the right to be judge and jury,” said Jackson-Lee.

“We don’t know what will happen in the case in Florida how many suspicious hoodies we’ll be stopping on the streets of America but we can’t stand in the way of innocent children, mothers and fathers, grandmothers, third-  and fourth-generation members, in this instance, [of the] Hispanic community” any further, she said, adding that Latinos have been in southwest border states like Texas for many generations.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments about the constitutionality of the Arizona immigration on April 25. A final ruling is expected by late June.

Sections of SB 1070 have been blocked by lower courts, including the provision that allows police officers to check the immigration status of those who have been lawfully arrested, stopped, or detained if there is suspicion that the individual is in the country illegally. The Obama administration is hoping to preserve those decisions.

Arizona is arguing that instead of preempting federal authority over immigration, the law complements the nation’s immigration laws.<-->