Racism and the Denial of Immigration Reciprocity

I have an especially experienced perspective on the reality of how Latin American countries treat the immigration issue. I am a victim of immigration fraud. In 2009 I was approached by Bolivian immigration officials because of the color of my skin and was later detained due to a lack of documentation resulting from the fraud committed against me. Racial profiling? Papers please?

Been there, done that. The Story: Part OnePart TwoPart Three.

Bolivian law was changed in December 2007 to require new, complicated, applied-and-paid-for visas of United States citizens entering Bolivia. Whereas before Americans could enter Bolivia and receive a stamp granting them 90 days of tourist entry, now Americans must pay over $100, provide extensive documentation, and submit an application in order to have 90 days of tourist entry. The argument made in favor of this policy change: reciprocity. America has immigration restrictions, therefore Bolivia will have immigration restrictions. Reciprocity.

In the spirit of reciprocity, then: Why are so many of the people who support Bolivia’s ability to investigate citizenship actively opposing the United States’ ability to investigate legality?

Bolivia’s policing of immigration matters is openly racist; Arizona’s policing of immigration matters is just.

In 2009, my friend and I were the only people approached in the entire bus terminal that day. We were the only people detained. We walked into the terminal and were immediately stopped. Why? Only because our skins are pale. We were stopped only because of the color of our skin. We were victims of racism. I was particularly struck (emotionally) by the poster hanging on the wall in the hall of the immigration detention office… the poster was a PSA about needing to struggle against racism. Funny: none of the victims of racism depicted were white. I felt very much neglected as I was threatened with third-world jail as a result of my pale skin.

The Arizona law is fundamentally different from the Bolivian system. The Arizona law empowers police to investigate immigration legality when a person has already been stopped for another legal reason. They cannot randomly pull people over because of their skin color.

I, as a “white” person in Bolivia, South America, was stopped and investigated because of the color of my skin.

Someone else, as a person of any color in Arizona, United States of America, can be investigated under reasonable suspicion only if they have been stopped for another legal reason.

Bolivian Law: Racist.

Arizona Law: Just.

Interested in more information regarding what the Arizona law actually means? Read Heather Mac Donald’s article.

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