May 10, 2010 After hearing strongly worded testimony by Sen. Jose Serrano on the Senate floor May 4, lawmakers in the upper house passed a resolution denouncing any law that encourages racial profiling and urging the federal government to do the same.
The resolution specifically cites the recently passed immigration law in Arizona, which Serrano called a "slap in the face" to the history of immigration in America. The resolution was sponsored by Serrano, D-Bronx, and Sen. Jose Peralta, D-Queens.
"This resolution speaks to a very complex and disturbing issue we have, unfortunately, here in the United States," said Serrano. "We have a very broken immigration system, very much in need of immigration reform – one that respects the fact that this nation was founded on the backs of immigrants, people who came here to love this country and to die for this country."
Arizona's new law, SB 1070, was signed April 23 by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The law requires police officers to question individuals regarding their immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally and if the individual was already in contact with the officer for a different offense.
Serrano said in his testimony that an officer's ability to question individuals about their legal status based on reasonable suspicion encourages racial profiling. "That means that based on the color of a person's skin, possibly an accent, the way that they look, because of that they are subject ... to harassment by police," Serrano explained.
The resolution also states the Arizona law "places immigrants at risk and hinders law enforcement officials from obtaining the full cooperation they need."
Serrano said the new law in Arizona will have a "chilling effect" on the relationship between immigrants and non-immigrants and will "polarize the nation." He also said the relationship between immigrants and law enforcement will be compromised, as immigrants who have been subjected to crimes and abuse will be too afraid to come forward for fear of deportation of themselves or of loved ones.
The resolution states that immigration reform can only be achieved by a partnership between state and federal governments, so the Senate resolves to encourage cooperation with the federal government to enact immigration policies that "strengthen the family immigration system, provide a clear path to citizenship and revise current enforcement so that human and civil rights are safeguarded."
"There are people dying every day to come to this nation … because they know this nation is the greatest nation on earth" said Serrano. "That it provides unique opportunities that they will not find anywhere else in the world. We owe it to them, we owe it to the legacy of our parents and grandparents, and to all the immigrants who started our families here in the great nation we call home."
After the resolution was passed, copies were sent to President Barack Obama and all members of the New York state congressional delegation.