Two years ago this month, I was stopped twice by police officers in Arizona and asked to show my "papers". As an American citizen, these incidents were humiliating as well as terrifying. I'm of Chinese and Spanish descent, and it became clear that how I look made me a target in the state that has been my lifelong home.
On 25 April, the US supreme court will hear arguments regarding SB1070, the notorious anti-immigrant law in Arizona that encourages this kind of racial profiling. While the case will focus only on certain issues brought by the federal government, I am a plaintiff in a separate lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups.
I love my community's diversity, the opportunities it offers for my family and the warm Arizona climate. My wife and I have been together for 51 years and raised our three children here. We have proudly called Arizona home. But this is not the Arizona I know.
My wife, a retired educator, is Japanese-American and also faces the specter of the same police scrutiny I had to endure. The law invites police to rely on their racial bias when deciding who to stop, so our skin color means we're more likely to be targeted. Like most Americans, I never carried around my passport. Now, my wife and I always take ours when we leave the house.
We are concerned about losing them and identity theft. But after my police stops, we worry more about being detained or arrested if we don't have the proper documents.
I founded the Phoenix Asian-Hispanic Alliance and I am vice president of the state Asian Chamber of Commerce. I have also served on several boards and foundations. In the 1950s, I was in the military in Arizona. I like to give back to my community, my state and my country, and I want my two grandchildren to feel the same way. That means not having to live in a place where people are targeted based on how they look or sound. The days when laws were passed that led to discrimination should be confined to their history classes.
Nobody – undocumented or not – should be expected to carry their "papers" with them.
I was formerly a real estate investor and I see the fear and division this law has created in the communities where I worked. It has sparked anxiety among undocumented immigrants and citizens alike. It has made people afraid to approach police to report a crime or seek protection, which means we're all less safe. It has hurt our state's reputation, nationally and internationally.
Nobody – undocumented or not – should be expected to carry their "papers" with them. I am saddened that Arizona passed a hateful law so antithetical to true American values, which has stained our reputation here and abroad. It's a law that five other states have tragically emulated. It's time they all corrected a shameful – and unconstitutional – mistake.
I want my family to feel safe, welcome and proud to be in Arizona, so they can build their careers, families and lives here, just as I did.