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Public Statements

Arizona Immigration Policy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GUTIERREZ. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the immigration policy of the State of Arizona, a policy that Mitt Romney has called ``a model for America,'' to be largely unconstitutional. I applaud the Court for stating that immigration enforcement is a Federal responsibility.

The ``show me your papers'' law allows police to demand that individuals prove that they are legally in this country. This law is not just a problem for people who are undocumented. It's not just a problem for immigrants. It's not just a problem for anybody who looks like they might have come to America from somewhere else. It's a problem for every American who cares about freedom. It's a problem for all of us who believe no person should be treated as a suspect based on how they look, their accent, or the spelling of their name.

In Arizona today, all that stands between you and a legal nightmare is whether a police officer feels there is a reasonable suspicion to inquire about your country of origin. Yet Arizona politicians will tell you, with a straight face no less, that they can apply this law without using racial profiling, without assuming that someone named Gutierrez isn't less likely to be in this country legally than someone named Smith.

That's an amazing skill. Maybe with practice, we can all become like Arizona politicians and police officers who are able to telepathically determine who to accuse of not belonging in America.

But let's take a quiz together this morning and learn how to pick out the suspect. Here are two journalists, Geraldo Rivera and Ted Koppel.

At a traffic stop, to the untrained eye, we might guess that Geraldo Rivera, for some reason that clearly has nothing to do with the way he looks, might not be from America. Geraldo Rivera's mustache wouldn't confuse an Arizona law enforcement professional. They would know that Geraldo Rivera was born in Brooklyn, New York, and that Ted Koppel was born in Europe, in England, where his parents moved to flee from Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Round two, this for our young fans of C-SPAN. This is Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. These young people have overcome their very different national origins and become apparently a happy couple. I'm sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country. Oh, wait a minute. I'm sorry, because I'm not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards. Actually, Ms. Gomez, of Texas, has helped Mr. Bieber, of Canada, learn about his adopted country.

Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers.

The next round shows how tricky Arizona's game of pick out the immigrant is to play. Here are two basketball superstars. Neither one is Latino. That's confusing already. You have to dig deeper to figure out who isn't the real American. So let's consider their names--Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker. Clearly, ``Lin'' sounds kind of foreign while ``Tony Parker'' sounds American to me. But I'm not an Arizona police officer who would know that Jeremy Lin was born in Los Angeles, and Tony Parker--oops--Europe, Belgium. Wrong once again.

Finally, here's just one more.

In case the Supreme Court ever wants to meet in Phoenix to consider its ruling about Arizona's ``show me your papers'' law, if these two Justices step out to Starbucks, which one do you think is likeliest to be a suspect, the Anglo male or the Latina? Neither is an immigrant, but Antonin Scalia's father came through Ellis Island from Italy, and Sonia Sotomayor is a proud Puerto Rican with generations of U.S. citizen ancestors.

We could play this game all day, but the point is simple. The idea that any government official can determine who belongs in America and who doesn't simply by looking at them is completely ridiculous, unfair, and un-American, and yet this absurdity is the law of Arizona.

The Court signaled that it will be watching this law closely, and it should, because we count on the Court to protect our liberties, not restrict them.

Because, in America, people should always be judged by their actions. No person, not one, should be judged by the way they look, the sound of their voice, or the pronunciation of their last name--not in Arizona, not anywhere, not ever.

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