Report: Racial Profiling Inevitable in Arizona

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County has been criticized for his immigration enforcement tactics, and was recently cited by the U.S. Department of Justice for racial profiling. While the DOJ report stated Arpaio’s checks of Hispanic-looking residents in Maricopa County reached extreme levels, new reports have examined whether Arizona’s tough immigration laws allow law enforcement officers any options beyond racial profiling.

A report developed by professors at Connecticut College, the University of Delaware and Yale University, as well as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, entitled, “Can Racial Profiling Be Avoided Under Arizona Immigration Law? Lessons Learned From Subtle Bias Research and Anti-Discrimination Law,” looks at the Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship of individuals. The report found the law would likely result in illegal targeting of Latinos who have U.S. citizenship.

Some of this targeting will likely be the result of subtle prejudice that is common throughout the United States. Store clerks, for example, are more likely to ask Hispanic shoppers than white shoppers for identification when paying with a check, according to the report.

While this subtle racism, according to the study, can be rejected by individuals when there is ample time to make a decision, time-sensitive decisions are more likely to foster this behavior. Arizona’s law also requires law enforcement officials to make decisions under ambiguous models. The law, which states that law enforcement should pull over anyone based on “reasonable suspicion” he or she is an illegal immigrant, is itself indeterminate.

While law enforcement professionals cannot change U.S. immigration laws, the study also suggests that police officers can try and change any subtle discriminatory behavior in themselves by undergoing training, such as the Peace Officer Standards and Training.