Heavy Police Tactics a Reality for Immigrants, Latinos Too

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News, August 28, 2014

Hundreds of miles separate their plights, but when violence erupted on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., Latinos in the New Orleans area who have been part of a high-tech local and federal law enforcement dragnet understood.

“It is something we are dealing with in our streets and in our homes, said Fernando Lopez, a community organizer at the New Orleans-based Congress of Day Laborers. The Congress holds weekly meetings where hundreds of area immigrants show up to tell stories of who was caught in the latest roundup.

Immigrants tell of being visited at home by officers who claim to be looking for someone else but end up coming back and handcuffing them and arresting them as family and children look on, Lopez said.

The African-American and Latino and immigrant community “have different examples of what criminalization and discrimination look like. It could be someone getting shot. It could be someone arrested at Home Depot,” Lopez said. Either way, “we live in a system where in most of these actions, where someone gets shot or gets criminalized, these actions are somehow legalized and get justified.”

Latino communities say the increased policing in their communities and use of military-grade equipment has come as local officials have taken on more of the role of enforcing immigration laws, either through state policies or federal-state partnerships.

Mobile fingerprinting equipment used by local and federal officials at immigration stings in the New Orleans area were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to documents obtained by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. The group has said the equipment has been used in raids on Latino businesses and communities. Latinos are rounded up and fingerprinted and those with previous deportation orders or other warrants are arrested.

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For years, immigrants and people assumed to be immigrants by law enforcement have contended with Secure Communities, the federal fingerprinting program used by local officials to root out those in the country illegally, many after being pulled over on traffic stops.

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Immigrant groups also cite laws such as Arizona’s SB1070, annual deportations of hundreds of thousands, and Latinos being stopped and asked to show papers or identification.

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“In the black community and in the Latino community, what you see now are protests against the way we have been dehumanized. That dehumanization is reflected in state policies and over policing,” said Ian Haney-López, a professor at the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law and an expert on the evolution of race relations since the civil rights era.

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