‘Show Me Your Papers’ laws bring new era of racial profiling, activists say

Activists gathered under the statue of Abraham Lincoln at City Hall in Kansas City to pray for racial healing and to speak out against proposed laws that they say would lead to racial profiling. (Kevin Kelly/Key photo)

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — The robber put a gun to her face and demanded her purse. So terrified was she by the experience that she ran into a nearby store to cry, but was just as afraid to call police.

She is an undocumented immigrant.

The store manager finally convinced her that Kansas City police weren’t interested in her immigration status. They would be far more interested in getting a robber who would put a gun to a young woman’s head off the streets.

With her help, that is exactly what the police did.

“They helped me get my things back, and I learned that I could trust the police, and they would help me,” the young woman said at a prayer vigil Sept. 12 for racial healing.

Organized by the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2) and the Alliance for Immigration Reform and Reconciliation, the vigil on the day following the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States drew about 30 people under the statue of Abraham Lincoln at City Hall in Kansas City.

Following the vigil, the group met at the Catholic Center to organize more advocacy on behalf of just immigration reform and against so-called Arizona-style “Show Me Your Papers,” that in effect would turn local law enforcement into federal immigration enforcement agencies.

Under such laws, local police are required to demand proof of legal residency from any person that they suspect might be an illegal immigrant.

Opponents of the law said that Hispanics, citizens or not, will be targeted and even arrested if they cannot prove legal residency on the spot.

That is the very definition of racial profiling, speakers at the rally said.

“My people were once asked to show their papers for a very different reason,” said Ester Holzendorf, who is African-American. “Racial profiling makes us all less safe because it leads police not to see dangerous people who do not fit the bias profile.”

Entire neighborhoods can also be profiled, said Father Ernie Davis, pastor of St. Therese Little Flower Parish. Earlier that day, the second mid-day “drive-by” shooting in two months occurred near 58th Street and Woodland Avenue, within two blocks of the church’s front door. The first one, a murder that happened right in front of the church at 58th Street and Euclid Avenue, has yet to be solved.

“We have been designated as a high crime area where crime is tolerated,” Father Davis said at the vigil. “If shootings happen in Independence, Leawood or north of the river, they would be stopped. In our neighborhood, they continue.”

There is no escaping the fact that the human race is inter-dependent, said the Rev. Jennifer Brooks of All Souls Universal Unitarian Church. “We all are connected, everyone here, everyone in this city, everyone in this nation and everyone in the world,” she said.

“The harm that happens to the least one of us happens to all of us,” she said. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph