My daughter turns 16 in October and is already preparing to take the wheel at that time. She’s my third child and I know this rite of passage is never easy. But unlike driving fears that I had for her older brothers in years past, I’m now scared for her for another reason that I never expected.
I’m now more worried about her being racially profiled by police and state troopers in Texas.
This is because her birthday will come just six weeks after SB 4 will take effect on Sept. 1. This antisanctuary cities bill, which was signed into law on Sunday night by Gov. Greg Abbott, will allow police and law enforcement authorities to ask the immigration status of those detained, such as for a traffic stop.
Human rights advocates fear it will provoke racial profiling in Texas while Republicans say it is a just means to promote federal immigration laws and they believe it is right to fine law enforcement agencies and municipalities between $1,500 to $25,000 for not complying. I realize the truth lies somewhere in between those two arguments. But I’m also a mom. And since the day my daughter was born far darker than anyone else in our family, I’ve noticed that she often gets treated differently because of her silky caramel skin.
I think her skin tone is striking and lovely. Having grown up in Washington, D.C., where the days are gray and cold and the sun doesn’t always shine and many of us paid for tanning salon services there, I know her year-round tan would have been the envy of my high school. But it’s a different era for immigration now. Hateful rhetoric coming from Washington and our state capitol is propelling suspicions among those who look or speak differently.
My daughter doesn’t speak Spanish. In fact when we moved here four years ago from Waco, she couldn’t say “gracias.” She still has trouble rolling her rrr’s, but I’m so proud at how much she has learned from her classmates, and how much she has embraced the Hispanic culture. And I often giggle at her responses to those who seek her out at the mall asking for directions or help in Spanish, provoking a wide-eyed stuttering apology in English from my teen. What’s more amazing is seeing the shock on the faces of those who approach my daughter when they realize that this dark-skinned girl doesn’t speak Spanish.
She has told me repeatedly how much she loves going to school with so many Hispanic girls; how she blends in here and how much she loves living in the Rio Grande Valley.
I’m happy that she’s happy, but now I am worried. Because I also know that she can be hard-headed, opinionated and not afraid to debate and strike back if she feels in the right. (I have no idea where she gets this from.) These are all potential ingredients that could get her in trouble should someone dare ask her where she was born.
I wonder if Gov. Abbott or the Texas senators and representatives who pushed through this hateful legislation ever stopped to think about someone like my daughter. Clearly they were targeting immigrants, but there will be others affected who might now live in a state where at any time they might feel forced to prove their birthplace. Does this mean she’ll need to carry her passport to school? And if she ever is approached will it change how she views law enforcement, who we have always taught to respect and trust?
As her 16th birthday approached all along I thought the most I had to fret about was whether she’d remember to put both hands on the wheel, keep the music low, don’t follow too closely and to pay attention to other drivers. But now we both have so much more to fear.
Sandra Sanchez is opinion editor for The Monitor. Contact her at email@example.com or (956) 683-4461.