Immigrants strengthen a community

Date: 20 Dec 2012

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a clear message to states across the country — discriminatory, anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 are unconstitutional and stand in the way of our founding principles of justice and equality. This is good news for people in North Carolina who recognize the invaluable gifts our newest immigrant neighbors bring to our economy and culture. It also sends a strong message to Congress: Fix our broken immigration system so we can begin the next chapter in our history, more united in our diversity than ever. The decision struck down three key provisions that:

  • Make it a crime not to carry immigration papers.
  • Make it a crime for undocumented people to hold or seek a job.
  • Give police the authority to arrest people on suspicion of being undocumented
This landmark decision should put to rest concerns in states like North Carolina that special legislative committees will continue to try to copy the irresponsible road of Arizona or Alabama. One exception remains unresolved, however: the “show me your papers” provision that gives local police the authority to check the immigration status of those they stop or detain based on “reasonable suspicion.” Such a policy opens the door to racial profiling and has devastating effects upon hard-working, law-abiding immigrant families. Until this provision is settled, communities like ours have a choice to make: Will we seek unity or distrust between our local law enforcement and our diverse immigrant communities? On June 10 at St. Mary’s Church, Greensboro took a significant step in answering this question in the right direction. FaithAction International House facilitated a promising dialogue among four excellent members of the Greensboro Police Department and a few hundred Latino members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church that offered a striking contrast to Arizona’s SB 1070. Congregants shared positive experiences with the GPD, as well as fears and concerns around being unfairly targeted during traffic stops, and frustrations with ID issues. Officers were clear that their job is to serve and protect all of the diverse residents of Greensboro equally, and that racial profiling is not tolerated. They assured congregants that they can feel safe in reporting crimes, and also provided helpful suggestions for how they can be more lawful in their driving habits. Congregants felt listened to, and many left with a greater sense of trust and respect for the challenging job of police officers; a few even expressed a strong interest in joining the force as soon as they become citizens. June 10 was a hopeful first step toward greater trust and understanding in Greensboro at a crucial time in our nation’s history around immigration. If we continue to move in this direction, our community will undoubtedly become safer and better for all people and set Greensboro apart as a model multicultural and immigrant-friendly city. This article originally appeared in the Greensboro News and Record on July, 2 2012.