My New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is angry that “legal citizens and permanent residents of the U.S.” will be detained and asked for their “papers” in Arizona. In a CNN interview yesterday, the Senator says that “Arizona has become a ‘show me your papers’ state,” and he declares that, if asked, “the only papers [he] would show is the Constitution.”
Has Senator Menendez been to an airport recently? Every time I fly I have to produce papers, even though I am a native-born legal citizen and a permanent resident of the United States. I am routinely treated like a criminal—I have to partially disrobe, my bags are routinely opened and their contents searched and examined, I am patted down—even though I have committed no crime, I am not accused of committing any crime, and I am not even suspected of committing any crime. And, of course, I am not the only one.
As I wrote many years ago, before 9/11 I used to refuse permission to airport security personnel to inspect my bags. Since 9/11, however, I no longer have that choice. Either I submit to whatever the security personnel want, or I am indefinitely detained. Of course, I also have the option not to fly, which seems an awfully high price to pay.
If Senator Menendez believes that legal citizens of the United States should not be subject to random detaining and should not be required to provide proof of their identities and of their citizenship, why is he not organizing protests at our airports?