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Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.
The groups behind "eapp" hope to have the app available for users this summer.
March 17th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Opinion: Being arrested? Yes, there's an app for that.

Editor’s note: Paromita Shah has served as Associate Director of the National Immigration Project since 2005, specializing in immigration detention and enforcement. She is a contributing author and co-presenter of the “Deportation 101” curriculum, participates in regular advocacy efforts with ICE officials, and has created an abundance of resources for communities affected by heightened immigration enforcement efforts.

By Paromita Shah, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Earlier this month, two groups that support immigrants, Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform and Respect/Respeto, jointly announced the forthcoming “eApp,” (Emergency Alert & Protection Program) a smart phone app designed to protect people’s safety and help protect them against any civil rights abuses that could occur when people are stopped in their cars for suspected immigration violations.

The app is modeled after the one created for people participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.  When activated it would notify a pre-set list of people that might include family, friends, lawyers and advocates. The app will also remind users of their rights, and have the ability to record audio and video of the incident.  The groups behind “eapp” are fundraising now and hope to have it available for users this summer.

It's no surprise that the creators of this app are from Arizona, the state where SB-1070 feeds into an anti-immigrant climate leading to well-documented civil rights violations. It’s also the state where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has openly waged a decade-long ‘war’ against people he thinks are non-citizens in the name of stopping unauthorized migration. The greatest tools in his arsenal, prior to Arizona's state law, were voluntary federal programs that allowed police to stop, arrest and detain suspected non-citizens for immigration violations. The result is that SB-1070 and Sheriff Joe's actions have been hurting everyone – not just immigrants.

Findings from a three year investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office (MCSO) paint a chilling picture of systemic racial profiling where Latinos were between four to nine times more likely to be stopped while driving their cars. The DOJ report details operations against “dark-complected” individuals even though there was no credible information about criminal activity or immigration violations and describes multiple instances of excessive force by MCSO deputies. It concludes that “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency” exists.  The DOJ report follows years of documentation by community organizations of nighttime raids on apartments, unwarranted traffic stops, and checkpoints at churches and schools.

The message? For one out of three people in Arizona who are not white, civil rights abuses are a real concern. Communities have decided to take their safety into their own hands by developing this “eApp” that will reveal what is actually happening during a traffic stop, whether the stop is initiated by the police or immigration agents.

To cast this “eApp” as a way to evade immigration laws is disingenuous.  It is a step in the right direction to counteract a national problem of the rising racial profiling and abuse of suspected immigrants in the United States. With states like Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama following in Arizona’s footsteps, this “eApp” may bring more transparency and accountability to the inaccessible and insular world of immigration enforcement.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paromita Shah.

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Budi

    16a1543511cI wish more guys would write posts like this that are actually inretesting to read and not boring like many others. With all the fluff floating around on the web, it is rare to read a blog like yours instead.keep updating your blog. thx! 195

    April 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lilgtogirl

    It's not a civil right violation to ask you if you are a citizen. It is not a civil rights violation to be stopped and asked if you are a citizen. let's face it, profiling works for a reason. Has anyone checked on the Iranian woman who even wrote this article?

    March 20, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. KawikaMac

    In the late 60's I was stopped at least once a week while driving to college. I was driving a small foreign coupe and I had a beard. Often the officer would make a U-turn to return and pull me over FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON other than the fact that I looked different. I was profiled as a 'radical' I was called a G*d D***md Hippie Mother F***er on several occasions by these so-called protectors of the law. Little has changed, the far right has just changed their targets.

    March 19, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Fkkkk this
      I tried to respond to this comment a dozen times and it just wont post
      No obscenity,nothing bad,but it still wont post
      well fkkkk you CNN,eat a bag of hairy d1kkks

      March 20, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
      • Guest

        Had no problem posting that one,you fgggot cokksuckers

        March 20, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. twhiting9276

    The realilty is quite simple, honestly

    IF you get stopped (or pulled over) by a cop, you have two choices
    #1: Co-operate
    In this case you're typically out of there within 2-3 minutes, after he (or she) verifies that you've done nothing wrong, and you're free to go on your way. Happened many times to me, and I "fit the profile" quite a few times (kids leaving mall, stuff being ripped off, etc).

    #2: Be belligerent, refuse to co-operate
    In this case, you're the one doing harm here, not the cop. YOU bring the bad luck all about yourself. YOU delay the process, because you just don't want to co-operate. How is this the cop's fault?

    The reality is that MOST people choose #1 because they have nothing to fear, nothing to hide. The people that choose #2 either have something to fear, something to hide, or they're just every day, ordinary jerks. In that case, hey, you deserve everything you've got coming.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sheena

    ok I'm sorry but how is it a civil RIGHT violation to ask if someone is here LEGALLY? I am missing something.. get over it .. profiling happens everyday, I watch cops pull over people for no real reason.. or very minor reasons.. if your black 'you fit the discription of...' if you white ' I smell marijuana as you passed by...' and so now if you are latino ... in the words of Cheech and Chong 'Let me see your green card.'
    It is not scapegoating or profiling.. sorry people but many times people act 'funny' when they see cops and the law can pick up on that.. sheesh they picked ME up when I was 11 and a run away and I was just walking, but the cop saw the way I watched him go by he said.
    If you are breaking the law, cops are PAID to find you and arrest you.. so uumm what's the deal?

    March 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris G

    Unless this app allows you to plug the phone into the officer's brain and see what he was thinking before making the traffic stop, you can NEVER know if it was racial profiling or not. Give up.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sheena

      EXACTLY! Thank you... COPS have to profile.. it's an instinct that keeps them alive and us safe... and if you breaking the law.. their job is to stop you. End Game.

      March 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. American

    DO you notice how the Republican Party always says they are not racist, but you read their comments, talk to them in person, and find out they are. Why deny it? No one that is not white is going to vote for them. Obama will win, because this election is based on whether you are racist or not.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jose

    If I am in Arizona and get asked to see my citizenship, I will tell the they can suck it. My family has lived in Texas before white people were even thought of over here. I am more legal then they are. Obama 2012!

    March 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • dana

      What i do not understood is utaaclly how you are not utaaclly much more well-liked than you may be right now. You are so intelligent. You realize thus significantly on the subject of this matter, made me for my part believe it from numerous varied angles. Its like women and men aren't interested except it is something to do with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs great. Always handle it up!

      April 18, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. DANILO

    WHERE CAN I GET THESE APP SO I CAN CHECK IT OUT.
    I LOOKED FOR IT IN THE APP STORE AND ITS NOT THERE.

    PLEASE ADVICE.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. WhiteGuy

    Everyone Should be required to show proof of citizenship when pulled over. I know a white guy from France who lives here illegaly, and has for over 10 years. He has an awesome job also, go figure.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Imigrant

    There was dark time in our recent memory that immigrants were escape-goats of society. I won't use the 'n' word here, but it's a shameful aspect of American society, that it accepts immigrants labor, taxes, money, just to throw them out when the going gets tough. Really is that 12 million immigrants are not begging on the streets or came here unassisted. America must do the right thing and not throw the people who clean your houses, picked your fruits and make your burritos under the bus. This is a human rights issue and frankly, I'm sick to hear condemnation from the very people who exploit immigrant labor.Americans must not go there cause this is naked capitalism's doing.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruno

      great work! im in complete awe to see this dniimseon of yours n that too so well-etched n honest to the core. Today,i feel proud being an avid n dedicated listener of the songs which are written by someone who has such in-depth knowledge of our literature. you've made me a very proud person today!THANKS for doing this.

      April 17, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jake

    I say we arm hispanic Americans, that way police will be afraid to pull them over. If they are American citizens, why do they have to be pulled over and asked about their citizenship, is white people pulled over, because there are a lot of Canadians that are here illegally also.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. a paul..

    too little too late... d illegal arrests that be going on these are mind blowing .. but E app wont do much without reform of the system...people are being charged for crimes with out a viable case ...these things must stop .. an it beings wit da law anything besides is an will b a joke..

    March 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. teaisbetterj

    Anything to protect all those illegal obama voters. The president can not run on his record so he will steal it with voter fraud.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. AZgirl

    YOU GOT IT RIGHT STARBRIGHT! NO ONE supports ILLEGAL immigration and those who call it anything else are trying to cloud the issue...We need to stand up and STOP this

    March 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  16. starbright

    I believe you mean anti-ILLEGAL immigrant environment. Stop sugar-coating everything. I don't support civil rights abuses. But I also don't support the idle allowance of illegal activity. I hope this app can help prevent actual civil rights abuses, but I also hope that people who are breaking the law do not get to escape the associated legal penalties.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |