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Brown Skin and Cracked Tail Lights

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By Mayor Phil Gordon
(Special to Latino Perspectives)

A few months ago, a member of my own staff and her husband went “off-roading” with five other couples.  They were just outside the City of Phoenix, but still in Maricopa County.  All five couples drove past a sign that read “No vehicles beyond this point.” It was a mistake. And immediately, they began a giant U-turn that would correct their mistake. But they didn’t even finish that simple turn before a Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff pulled all six vehicles over.

One by one, he approached each couple, and one by one he let them go. Until he got to the last couple – the one driven by my assistant. He didn’t ask her for her driver’s license like he did the others. He asked for her Social Security Card. And he didn’t let her go like he did the others. He wrote her a citation. Her first name is Jessika.

And her last name is Rodriguez.

And the only thing that made her different from the other four couples was the color of her skin.

On the streets of Phoenix, a United States Marine, in full uniform, was harassed outside a day-labor center. He was insulted and called a traitor by a group of “Pretend Patriots.”  It’s too bad you didn’t die in the war,” he was told. “Go back to your own country.”

Well, this American hero of Hispanic heritage is in his own country. He fought for this country.

And all of us have to re-double our efforts to fight for that Marine. And for Jessika. And for everyone who stares down the face of discrimination in our community.

These two stories have nothing to do with Green Cards. They have everything to do with Brown Skin. They were about racism and nothing else.

Not long ago the Phoenix Police Department, working with the FBI, DPS, Mesa P.D. and other local police agencies rounded up and jailed nearly 500 gang members who were terrorizing Arizona.

I’m proud of that – because those are the kind of round-ups we should all be doing.  The kind that make us safe from the most dangerous and violent among us.   Just about every jurisdiction does that. Except one.

While everyone else is targeting criminals who endanger us all, one agency stops people who honk their horns or change lanes without signaling. Surely with limited resources, there are better choices to be made.

The Maricopa County Sheriff has 40,000 outstanding felony warrants sitting on his desk. And rounding up those people should be a priority.  Instead, he has created a “Sanctuary County for Felons” with his reckless priorities – that target brown skin and cracked tail lights – instead of killers and drug dealers.

Reasonable people may disagree, from time to time, on some issues.  But not on this issue.  No one should be targeting people who have skin that is darker than their own.

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