“Show me your papers.” That demand by police and immigration officials may become more frequent in the future because of Texas Senate Bill 4. But just what constitutes “papers”?
Years ago I went with friends to a restaurant in Villa Acuña. I was dressed in levis and boots and had just acquired a new Stetson hat. When we arrived at the restaurant I turned my car over to the watchman in the parking lot, knowing that he would expect a tip when I retrieved it. I said very little to him but that little bit was in Spanish.
He was a garrulous sort and, when we returned to pick up the car, he addressed me in Spanish. My mind was on other things so I did not understand what he had said and, unthinking, I responded in English with “Sorry. What did you say?”
“Oh. I thought you were Mexican. You look like a Mexican.” He meant that as a compliment. He was very proud of his own Mexican heritage. Because I was dressed as I was, had a dark mustache, and a big hat, he had assumed that I was native. And his was not an illogical conclusion. I was with others who were obviously American military men in uniform. I looked very much like a Mexican guide for a party of Yankees.
But I am a citizen of the United States, with ancestry dating back to colonial Virginia. I am a retired military officer. The only identification I ever carry is my driver’s license and my military identification card. Neither of these guarantees that I am a citizen.
So now my question is: How does a law enforcement officer determine that someone might be here illegally? If I should be stopped and questioned, what kind of proof of identity would the officer demand?
What about those brown-skinned Americans whose ancestors were here before mine even arrived? What proof would be demanded of them?
And what happened to the idea of presumed innocence?
Our legislature and our governor should be ashamed of themselves.