Jewish World Review May 9, 2001 / 16 Iyar, 5761
Now they're 'profiling' presidents' daughters?
WILD first child Jenna Bush graces the tabloids again. During a police
crackdown April 27 at a club popular with students, the 19-year-old college
freshman was charged with alcohol possession by a minor, a misdemeanor.
Undercover officers said she was drinking a substance resembling beer.
What makes this story interesting — aside from its central character — is that
the techniques used to identify and charge Bush might, in another setting, be
called "profiling." Officers went to an area known for a specific activity,
surveyed the scene, made a generalized assessment of the patrons,
approached and demanded proof of innocence. Bush was snared based on
her appearance and proximity and the officers' experience.
Similar tactics led to a lawsuit, now settled, against the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) by Unite, the garment workers' union.
According to The New York Times, INS agents often cited skin color, use of
Spanish, foreign accents and clothing "not typical of North America" as
primary evidence that workers were likely illegal.
As part of a pattern INS
officials said may have violated its anti-profiling guidelines, one Manhattan deli
was singled out based on a tip that half its 20 workers were Mexicans here
illegally. Surreptitious observations revealed that employees appeared to be of
South or Central American descent. Some spoke Spanish; others, English
with a foreign accent.
The objections raised to these tactics, however, ignore the fact that the police
work was solid: Four of the deli workers were indeed illegal immigrants. In
fact, "all but a handful" of 37 raids the newspaper reviewed resulted in the
arrests of illegal workers.
Yes, it is discriminatory to single out citizens for "driving while black" or being
the wrong skin color in the wrong neighborhood. In such cases, race or
ethnicity is a red herring or, worse, an excuse for police harassment. But some
visual and aural observations, combined with specific knowledge, such as a
tip or past dealings with an employer, are simply common-sense police work.
Bush was correctly targeted based on how she looked, what she was doing
and where she was. So were the deli workers. Taxpayers would rightly be
perplexed if the INS had concentrated instead on the floor of the New York
Stock Exchange, even if some stockbrokers do speak Spanish or listen to
Spanish-language radio stations.
Jenna Bush will likely pay a fine as a result of her run-in with the law. Happily,
she probably can expect that her next profile will involve a celebrity magazine
instead of a police
JWR contributor Amy Holmes is a Washington-based writer. To comment, click here.
© 2001, Amy Holmes