In recent testimony to the Virginia State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which I chair, a Prince William attorney, Lisa Johnson-Firth, described the experiences of her law partner, who is from Eritrea: "She's been pulled over in the last two months three times by Prince William County policy officers and Manassas police officers for apparently no lawfully-stated reasons that either of us as lawyers could ascertain."
Johnson-Firth went on to detail other incidents involving Hispanics. In one, a Latino male -- a lawful, permanent U.S. resident -- was harassed by police for 30 minutes at a local convenience store; another legal resident, who was a passenger in a car, was ordered out of the vehicle, searched, and handcuffed and held for over two hours until his immigration status could be verified. Johnson-Firth testified she knew of numerous other incidents, some involving U.S. citizens, who described being routinely stopped for questioning by police when going about their normal business, simply on the basis of appearance or accent.
Nothing, including the effort to control illegal immigration, justifies this kind of harassment and intimidation. And the pope is merely reminding all Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic, that we should heed "the better angels of our nature," as our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, once invoked.
Whether we are citizen or non-citizen, American or foreign-born, legal or illegal immigrant, we are all God's children. And it is our moral duty to treat each other as such.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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