1. Should Americans have the right to walk around anonymously?
I think that the requirement for all Americans to carry around identification documents should be maintained for a number of reasons. First, security would be severely compromised if anonymity was legalized; searches at airports and buildings would be irrelevant if the officers cant run a person through their databases to verify that their criminal background is clean. With terrorism a major concern, it is a pragmatic move, and not a punitive one, to have people take the time to have their identities ascertained.
Social welfare services also greatly depend on identification to be effective. If anonymity were encouraged, these services would see a spike in demand as people would be able to make false claims by presenting only a few of their documents that will help them get into the program and leave the others behind. This would put a tremendous strain on federal and state budgets, necessitating further taxes and austerity measures, thereby slowing down economic growth. For a politician, all these are negative implications, with no social gain made in the process.
Finally, immigration would balloon out of control. While the Arizona law that was signed in is extreme, it does highlight the fundamental issue of unsustainable immigration. Without a mechanism for differentiating immigrants from citizens, there would be nothing to stop illegal immigrants from trooping in and claiming to be citizens who simply haven’t carried their documents. Americans are entitled to certain rights as spelt out in the constitution and in federal as well as state laws.
These rights, in many cases, can be applied only when the person can be identified as an American citizen. How, for example, should an electoral official treat a voter who does not show up with requisite documents but insists on voting on the grounds that he has the right to show up without identification documents? Much as Americans have rights, they must realize that these come with responsibilities, sometimes as basic as carrying identification.
2. Unsolved Civil Rights Issue: Racial Profiling
Racial profiling remains a pertinent issue in civil rights law, and is the biggest issue raised by opponents of Arizona’s new immigration law. The issue is sticky for a number of reasons; first, proponents of racial equality point out that profiling furthers past injustices and entrenches inequality by highlighting racial differences. Counter-arguments point out that profiling is at times inevitable. Both sides have their merits.
For a start, it remains a fact that race still influences many decision makers; police officers still patrol inner cities more than they do white-dominated neighborhoods, white candidates for jobs still land more opportunities that their black and Latino counterparts of equivalent qualification. There is need to put less insistence so as to maintain some form of equality in such things as job application forms. However, it is also a fact that in daily life, identification is greatly aided when race is introduced. For example, two men with similar features can be easily distinguished if color of skin is used as an identifier by police.
The second problem is that the theories advocating for racial equity are simply not in line with reality; it remains true that a lot of crime happens in black neighborhoods. It remains a fact that terrorist threats to the U.S are come from Arab extremists, etc. Yet to make a decision such as making a search on suspicion arising from race is illegal. The example is given of the security official who allowed the leader of the Al Qaeda group that carried out the 9/11 attacks; he had his reservations about them based on how they looked, and nothing else. He could not use this as grounds for a search, and maybe if he would have, things would have been different.
Finally, there’s the question of how to effect affirmative action without profiling. For example, how can university admissions ensure equitable distribution if race is taken out of the picture? A lot of statistical information crucial for decision-making would also be illegal to develop because profiling is illegal. As well, when minorities are extended a favor based on their race, there is the question of reverse racism, where the majority feels discriminated against, thus furthering the cause against profiling.
The above issues with arguments on either side make racial profiling a sticky issue.
Archibald, R.C, “Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration”, in The New York Times (April 23 2010)
Weitzer, R (2006), Race and Policing in America: Conflict and Reform, New York, Cambridge Univ.