Ok, there very likely isn’t a number for reporting illegal immigrants at 1-800-ILLEGAL. I don’t know because I’ve never called it. But what if the number mentioned was available so that anybody in the United States could report someone who was an “alleged” illegal immigrant?
One county — a county I used to live in — has set up a hotline where local residents can report illegal immigrants and businesses who hire illegals. Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County has set up a hotline to report information on illegal immigrants.
The sheriff, under fire from many latino leaders, has pointed out that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (1-800-BE-ALERT), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (1-866-DHS-2-ICE) have similar hotlines.
When I lived in Phoenix (in Maricopa county) I worked at Walgreens. Spanish-speaking customers were very routine. Every now and then I’d have to call around several stores because a Spanish-speaking customer required a translator and my Spanish is rather limited. But it would be wrong to assume (even if the person couldn’t speak any English) that the Spanish-speaking person standing in front of me was an illegal immigrant.
According to an article written a week or so ago, there haven’t been any arrests made with the hotline. But the sheriff says that all tips are taken seriously and that no arrests will be made without probable cause. Which is encouraging.
Here’s why I don’t like the hotline. It encourages profiling. It also encourages the “bad neighbor” effect. If you’ve ever had the neighbors call the cops on you, you know what I mean. Is it wrong to assume that since ten or so Mexicans are living in a house that they are all illegals? Perhaps, but why not go talk to them instead of silently reporting them to the authorities based on your suspicions.
One of the reasons I am learning Spanish is so I don’t have to live in ignorance when it comes to the Spanish-speaking citizens of this country. I want to learn their world, their culture, and their language. And I’m also dropping a lot of the misconceptions and barriers I had.
If a citizen in Phoenix or neighboring cities has a legitimate suspicion, by all means call the hotline. However, one shouldn’t call the hotline based on the color of someone’s skin, a person’s occupation, or the language a person speaks.