by Xinhua Writer Wang Fengfeng
WASHINGTON, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Anila Ali is a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan. After becoming a U.S. citizen in 2002, she continues to experience humiliating and invasive treatment by customs and border protection officials. The reason, according to a documentary film released Wednesday, is the place where she was born.
The documentary, Americans on Hold: Profiling, Prejudice, and National Security, is released by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law. Zoe Salzman, who works with the center, told Xinhua in a recent interview that they want to use the film to highlight the use of racial profiling in the U.S. government. The film, which comes on the heels of a draconian immigration measure signed into law Friday by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, is also a testimony to the need for stopping the very act of racial profiling.
"Right now there's no federal law on the book that prohibits law enforcement agents and border agents from using discriminatory profiling in the way that the Arizona bill expressly mandates," said Salzman.
The Arizona law, SB 1070, mandates state law enforcement authorities to demand immigration papers, such as green card, passport or Arizona driver's license, from anyone based on the mere suspicion that they may be undocumented. Advocates are concerned that this is yet another policy that legitimizes and institutionalizes racial profiling.
Ms. Ali, the main character in the documentary, doesn't live in Arizona. She lives in Irvine, California, but it doesn't make much of a difference.
"It doesn't matter that you are a citizen," a border agent told her as she was subjected to additional questioning when she comes home after traveling abroad, "what matters is where you were born."
"We think that all too often this sort of profiling has been ignored, or even worse, justified as a sort of necessary sacrifice of a few others in the name of greater security for all," said Salzman.
Profiling in the name of national security aside, the federal government isn't exactly happy about the Arizona measure as well. President Barack Obama has called the measure "poorly conceived," and warned of harassment against Hispanics under the law.
Attorney General Eric Holder, on his part, said Tuesday the federal government may go to court to challenge the law. Hispanic members of the Congress are calling on Obama to join the fight against it.
Salzman said the center wants the new documentary to add to the debate. She said the film is designed to serve as a public education tool, informing both the public and lawmakers about the "real human impact" of policies promoting racial profiling, pushing forward not only immigration and national security reform, but also a federal law prohibiting racial profiling.
"Targeting on the basis of stereotypes about race, national origin, and religion violates fundamental human rights and American values," said Professor Smita Narula, CHRGJ Faculty Director and project director of the film. "These policies make entire communities more vulnerable without making any of us more safe."