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True confession and what it means to be "illegal" in America

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty May 25, 2010 06:48 AM

True confession: I love my hate mail.

Okay; I can do without the ad hominem stuff – which generally reflects on the author more than the target. But I appreciate the serious questions and critiques.

Let’s take the notion of being an "illegal” immigrant, for instance. In a recent “On Liberty” post on immigrants, a lot of readers took issue with my failure to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants to this country when I suggested that the new Arizona law requiring police to stop people to ask for their identity papers seems a bit too East-German-Stasi for my tastes. Does anyone really want to turn America into a country where guys in jackboots walk around demanding your "papers, please"? No thanks!

Still, a lot of people raised the valid question: what does it mean to be in America illegally?


Is social networking stealing your privacy? Demand your dot.rights!

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty May 20, 2010 06:23 AM

One of life's early lessons is never to put in writing something you wouldn't want your mother to read (Hi Mom!).

But did you know that each time you log on to the Internet, companies are collecting personal information about your interests, habits, beliefs and concerns?

Think about what you do on line: use a search engines, carry a cell phone with location information, log onto a social network, use webmail, access photo sites, media sites or cloud computing. In each of these instances, private companies are collecting and storing bits of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do.

The more you do online, the more personal information you leave behind.
What's worse, if you have friends on Facebook, Twitter, or chat electronically, law enforcement is probably monitoring you as well.


Anti-immigrant backlash that starts in Arizona should stop in Arizona

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty May 12, 2010 09:00 AM

Unless you are Native American or a descendent of slaves, your ancestors most likely were immigrants to this country.

Perhaps your family came here seeking religious liberty or fleeing persecution. Or maybe they came for economic reasons -- because staying home meant a life of grinding poverty, at best, and starvation at worst. Whatever the specific reasons, those who came to these shores were in search of a better future for themselves and for their children. They ended up building a nation -- for all of us.

Given this common American experience, it always strikes me as odd (or at least exceedingly ahistorical) when our nation falls under the grip of anti-immigrant hysteria.

The most recent incarnation of anti-immigrant backlash was the passage in Arizona of bone-headed legislation that will require police officers to ask people for their papers based on some undefined "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country unlawfully.

It's a law that invites racial profiling in the worst way. On what other basis than race will a police officer suspect that someone is not legally present in the United States? The Arizona law will lead to targeting of Latinos (including American citizens and lawful permanent residents) with mass sweeps and enforcement operations.

So it was heartening to see the Boston City Council and Mayor Tom Menino take a stand against the Arizona law last week -- denouncing Arizona's race-baiting policies, while reaffirming our city's commitment to America's values of fairness and equality. The Worcester City Council is considering a similar measure, and, while opposing a boycott, Governor Patrick blasted the Arizona law.

If only all Massachusetts politicians were so enlightened!


Times Square bombing attempt shows limits of surveillance

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty May 6, 2010 06:37 AM

America owes a debt of gratitude to the two street vendors in Times Square who last weekend noticed smoke coming from a Pathfinder that was ditched at the curb with its engine running and flashers on. They alerted a nearby mounted police officer to the imminent danger, thus setting off a series of events that led to the apprehension and arrest in only 53 hours of the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

While details surrounding the attempted attack and arrest are still unfolding, it appears that concerned citizens and gum shoe detective work led to the rapid collar. The Shahzad case, like the case of the failed underwear bomber before him, shows that surveillance cameras do little to keep us safe compared to traditional police work.

New York City's "steel ring" of 3,000 surveillance cameras (including 82 in Times Square alone) played virtually no role in capturing the alleged bad guy, according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Instead, it was a couple of alert citizens, responsive cops on the street, effective police detectives following a trail of low-tech clues -- VIN numbers, house keys and a cell phone number that Shahzad gave to the woman he bought the truck from -- that helped nab Shahzad before he escaped to Dubai.

In other words: the successful model for getting the alleged "bad guy" is more Sam Spade than Jack Bauer.

So why, you might ask, is our federal Department of Homeland Security investing millions of dollars to underwrite local police efforts to build a surveillance net over our communities while laying off police officers and community-based public safety programs?


About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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