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Chandler, Arizona Redux

Created: 07 May, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
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4 min read

   Black stand-up comedians make a living telling jokes about getting stopped by police officers all the time for the “crime” of “Driving on a Sunday afternoon while Black.”

   The joke is true. It is true as has been documented by court-ordered studies in New Jersey and California.

   Truth: Racial profiling is a way of life for police officers, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol officers and even federal officers in the Border Patrol. Racial profiling is illegal and unconstitutional yet occurs every day in all states but particularly in Arizona.

   In Arizona, coincidentally, Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under investigation by a federal grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice. Why? For withholding or concealing evidence from courts and Grand Juries and for massive sweeps based on racial profiling in his earnest hunt for Mexicans.

   Today’s controversy, though sparked with the passage of a sweeping state law that targets Mexicans because their speech, clothing, mustaches, baseball caps and jeans set them apart from God-fearing Americans, the controversy began in Chandler, Arizona 13 years ago.

   A giant sweep through a square mile of downtown Chandler, Arizona by Chandler police officers enabled by Border Patrol agents detained and harassed many people that resulted in the deportation of 432 illegal aliens. The sweep occurred over five days. The thousands of stops and detentions resulted in a massive civil rights violation law suit demanding $35 million for legal residents and American citizens that the City of Chandler settled with $400,000 precious taxpayer dollars.

   The Chandler police could not tell illegals from legals so they stopped ANYONE who looked Mexican.

   Even federal officers manifest racial profiling disease.  In Riverside and Escondido, California cities, a few years ago the Border Patrol initiated a massive sweep of the streets, buses and bus stops in both cities despite a federal court order prohibiting sweeps without specific individual intelligence of illegal residency. The agents literally manifested a middle index finger towards a legitimate long standing court order and the Constitution upon which it was based.

   Worse, when challenged, the agents lied and claimed they had specific intelligence which they never —ever— produced. They boarded buses debarked every Mexican looking passenger and demanded papers. If they didn’t have any on them, they were deported without being allowed a phone call. Legal residents were deported, illegally.

   “Papers pleece!” The streets of Escondido and Riverside looked like movies of Nazis in the 30s and 40s. Before ignorant critics who support such police state tactics scream SMEAR, Escondido and Riverside happened and it wasn’t all that long ago. Washington had to step in and stop the Border Patrol lawlessness.

   So, when one hears attorney Kris Kobach who helped write Arizona’s controversial SB1070 declare that the law specifically prohibits racial profiling, we must raise our collective eyebrows. Why, because as Chandler/Escondido/Riverside show us racial profiling is the engine that propels sweeps even when it is against the law.

   From the moderate Republican East Valley Tribune in Arizona we find these words in a ten-year retrospective of the July 1997 five-day “Chandler Roundup.”

   “By the time the week ended, 432 illegal immigrants were arrested and later deported. And in the most controversial aspect, hundreds more were stopped — including U.S. citizens and legal residents.”

   Further, “…an audit by then-State Attorney General (and Republican) Grant Woods found there were civil rights violations and that the city acted improperly. The 34-page report also accused authorities of stopping people based on skin color and accused police and federal agents of breaking into the homes and businesses without warrants. There were also accusations they intimidated citizens to get results.”

   Arizona is now taking their Chandler experience statewide. Will the courts stop Arizona?

   I’m not a stand-up comic but let me tell you a good one. 

   One night while driving in my beautiful gleaming Mercedes 450SL, patrol car lights appeared in my rear view mirror. I pulled over, wondering what I had done.  The California Highway Patrolman asked me if I felt my car swaying as I drove along at 70 miles an hour. No, I said. The Patrolman asked for my license/ registration and insurance papers. He wrote me a fix it ticket (cost, $25) and told me to report with proof that the “problem” had been corrected.

   I appeared in court with a mechanic’s notarized affidavit written the day after the “ticket.” He swore there was nothing mechanically wrong with the car. I refused to pay the $25 fine. The judge asked me why I refused, as it was not a large amount for a Mercedes driver. I responded with:

   “Your honor, the only thing I am guilty of is being a Mexican driving a pricey Mercedes at night in Southern California.”

   The judge agreed. Et tu?