Two latinos, Francisco Arguelles Jr. and his brother, were minding their own business one fine day last month, fishing in the Detroit river. Then the US Border Patrol showed up, and, according to the pair, singled them out as they were the only latinos fishing in the area. Their identities and citizenship were challenged. Though they weren’t arrested and the border guards eventually left, they were shaken up.
That’s understandable enough. Most people are at least a little intimidated by authority, especially with a government agent who has the type of power which border guards do. But the incident is being used by the latino community to focus on what they believe is racial profiling. The brothers think they were harassed simply because of their appearance.
To be sure, if all they were doing is fishing and they were indeed singled out because of their race, then we have a serious breach of their rights at hand. No one ought to be randomly detained in any way, shape, or form, if all they are doing is something so innocent as fishing with a couple dozen other people in a public area. Further, if latinos are being systematically singled out for ‘random’ questioning despite not posing an apparent threat to themselves or those around them, then we truly do have an issue with our government and how it handles our safety and security.
But on the issue of profiling in itself, we seem to have a bit of paranoia going in two directions. On the one hand, with incidents such as the one we are discussing here or with the DWB, Driving While Black, accusations, we cannot see any rational grounds for the defense of profiling. Yet when a serial killer is being sought, no one seems to mind that single, loner white males in their twenties, thirties, and forties living in the area of the violence are singled out.
Indeed, profiling in the manner which directs us towards true felons is apparently well employed by the police forces in our country. Further, television shows and movies are made all the time where a ‘profiler’ is readily used to hunt a criminal. On the surface, under such circumstances, the practice doesn’t seem all that wrong. If it is a tool which truly aids the police in apprehending serious criminals then, if used in conjunction with other generally accepted police procedures, it doesn’t appear any real violation of a person’s rights.
Therein likely exists the difference. If all there is to a ‘random’ police stop or questioning by a border guard is skin color or gender or whatever other qualifier can be added here, then someone’s rights have been violated. But if applied in sequence with several other legitimate policing factors, then we have no quarrel. It may be a fine line we draw. Yet it may be the only line we have.