Have you ever been a passenger in a car that was stopped because the driver was speeding or ran a light, and get asked what country you're from? And then get asked for identification documents? Well, that's what happened to two migrant workers, Danilo Lopez and Antonio Meza-Sandoval, from Vermont, who were arrested and turned over to Border Patrol even though they committed no known crime before coming into contact with the police.
Clearly, the Vermont state trooper who pulled the car over asked Lopez and Meza-Sandoval about their nationality and residency status because they didn't fit his image of what an American citizen looks like. There's a term that aptly describes what happened to them: racial profiling.
Racial profiling violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution (Fifth and 14th Amendments), which says it's unconstitutional to apply the nation's laws differently based on race. But racial profiling and differential treatment of people of color by law enforcement happens all the time.
And because these violations happen constantly, we need a law that will specifically forbid police officers from engaging in selective investigations, stops and frisks based on race, nationality, religion or ethnicity.
Lopez and Meza-Sandoval should not be facing any immigration-related charges based on an unconstitutional investigation.
Also, it's shocking that the trooper who stopped the driver didn't know whether he could inquire about the passengers' immigration status and had to call headquarters to get an answer.
If he got the green light to question them based on Vermont State Police policy then that policy would conflict with the constitution, in my view.
We at RWG hope for a good outcome so Lopez and Meza-Sandoval can continue on with their lives.
And we must recognize the activists who protested the arrests, called for an investigation and complained to the Vermont Human Rights Commission. And we commend Gov. Pete Shumlin for also calling for a full and thorough investigation of this matter.
If you agree, sign RWG's petition calling on President Obama to support the End Racial Profiling Act, which would ban the practice, provide oversight and give people a stronger basis for suing when their rights are violated.