The three word title of my commentary is an obvious play on the title of the defining book authored by the late President John F. Kennedy that was entitled, “Profiles in Courage.”
The issue of profiling has been a focal point of much of the criticism that those who oppose the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws when they argue against immigration law enforcement, especially when it is done by the states.
Having served as an immigration officer for some 30 years I decided to tackle the issue of profiling. Profiling can be an extremely effective law enforcement tool if it is done for the right reasons and if it is handled the appropriate way. Let me explain what I mean.
If a law enforcement officer decides to focus his or her attention on individuals of a specific race or ethnicity because of a prejudice, then that officer is acting in an inappropriate and utterly unacceptable manner. However, if the officer is looking for a particular suspect relating to a crime, then race, ethnicity or other such identifiers must be taken into account. If a person is the victim of a crime and reports that crime to law enforcement and provides a description of the perpetrator of the crime that include the suspect’s appearance, then obviously law enforcement officers need to take that description into account when searching for the perpetrator.
Profiling can also be used when law enforcement officers perceive that an individual appears to be “out of place.” When I have discussed profiling while participating in public speaking appearances, I often provide the example of the shopper in a supermarket who opens the ice cream freezer in the store searching for a pint of ice cream and to his surprise, finds a can of soup on the shelf next to the ice cream- certainly that can of soup is out of place!
If a police officer encounters and individual who is acting suspiciously or seems out of place, because of other factors, that law enforcement officer should stop that person and talk to him (her) to make certain as to what that person may be up to. Profiling needs to be about more than appearance but about the totality of circumstances. When a police officer, stops a motorist for violating vehicle and traffic law, he can issue a summons or take the driver into custody. The primary issue is if the motorist is likely to show up in traffic court if he's issued a summons. Simply stated, that officer is conducting a bail hearing on that street corner or on the side of the road. If a motorist cannot provide proper identity documents the diligent officer now has a dilemma. He has no way of knowing if the person is who he claims to be or may be lying because he is the subject of a warrant. It may mean that the motorist is not the owner of the car. Other issues now need to be taken into account including the potential for danger to the officer and danger to the community. If the motorist cannot prove his true identity the likelihood that he will show up when required by the summons is minimal at best. Furthermore, having an individual driving a vehicle without a license places other motorists and pedestrians at risk.
Yet there is a group of people, not involved in law enforcement, who are often quick to profile and they are, in my humble opinion, almost always wrong for doing it- yet these folks are often quick to criticize any law enforcement officer who use profiling. These people are journalists.
If you wonder how this is possible, consider how often the journalists, especially those who cover politics talk about “Black voters,” “Hispanic voters,” “Jewish Voters” or perhaps “Christian Voters!”
Think how insane this is! How can anyone possibly look at someone's color or religious ornament hanging from their neck and postulate who that person is likely to vote for? It is infuriating to think that because I wear a Star of David, because I am a Jew, that anyone could claim to predict who I would vote for or what positions I am likely to take on various issues! In my judgment, this flawed concept is the result of the emphasis placed on our nation now being populated by hyphenated Americans! We are no longer simply described as being Americans but instead as being “Black-Americans,” “Jewish-Americans” or “Hispanic-Americans!” This is divisive and wrong-headed! Suddenly the emphasis is on dividing Americans into subcategories of Americans. It is almost like using that awful phrase, “Those people!” Suddenly the language of bigotry has been given legitimacy and few have the courage to challenge it!
Stop and think how much damage this sort of bigotry does to our country in so many ways! While few of us will ever seek a political position, being elected to a political position is the equivalent of the process by which workers are interviewed and hired by their employers. If you want a particular job you certainly will do what you can to make a favorable impression on your prospective employer. If you have a job you like, you will likely be willing to work long hours and do what you have to do in order to keep your job- especially in this economically distressed era!
As might be expected, candidates for public office try to appeal to as many of the likely voters as possible. They fear that if they anger potential voters that they may not win the election. Often candidates are intimidated by a fear of losing a particular demographic or ethnic vote and hence the election, they buy into the idea that all voters of a particular ethnicity, race, religion or other such factor will vote the same way. For example, once a member of Congress becomes convinced that all Latino voters want the DREAM Act passed, or that all Latino voters want illegal aliens to be provided with a “Pathway to United States citizenship” the only question that those politicians will have is to determine how large the Latino voting block is within the district they seek to represent in Congress. Rather than being motivated by ideology these politicians become motivated by what they perceive is political expediency and pragmatism.
While individuals tend to vote as individuals and immigration law enforcement is not about race but about law, the statements that are all too often made by journalists and political pundits that contradict these fundamental truths influence many politicians. Consequently, politicians may be coerced into voting for bills they themselves may not like but have come to believe that their success in winning the election will depend on them voting for such a bill. Imagine a weak-kneed member of Congress voting for the DREAM Act or the mayor of a city issuing policy directives for his city's police department that turn his city into a “Sanctuary City” for illegal aliens. Rather than vote their conscience, these politicians will make decisions that they believe are essential if they are to be reelected!
It is the equivalent of an employee telling his boss that he likes his boss's necktie when in his heart of hearts he thinks that the pattern on that tie looks like dog vomit!
There is, however, a world of difference between an employee flattering his boss and a politician pandering to voters of a particular ethnicity, believing he can't win the election otherwise!
Several weeks ago I had the distinct privilege of sharing the podium with Congressman Lou Barletta when we addressed an immigration forum at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA. One of the folks in the audience asked me about profiling and I explained my perspectives to him and the rest of the audience the way I have here. I explained how journalists need to stop profiling!
After the event concluded I was approached by a number of the folks who had attended the event including three members of the Hispanic community. I was extremely gratified when they all told me that they had not thought about the issue of profiling and journalism and was thrilled when the three members of the Hispanic community told me that they could not have agreed with me more- and that they opposed the DREAM Act and the providing of pathways to United States Citizenship for illegal aliens!
When politicians want to praise one another, they commend their colleagues for their “leadership!”
It is time for our political leaders to act and vote like true leaders by voting their conscience and not their fears! Rather than chase the political poles like a dog chasing its tail, leaders should be able to decide on an appropriate course of action and by demonstrating leadership, bring their constituents along with them!
America and Americans would all be better for it!