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Racial Profiling of Latino Communities in the US

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Studies
Wordcount: 2296 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Due to the cycle of the events they hear in the media or within their neighborhoods, Latinos can undergo serious emotional, psychological, and physical trauma which can lead to negative emotions towards law enforcement. There is a clear comfort level that law enforcement showcases when it comes to racially profiling someone based on their skin color or background. They often show the lack of knowledge they have for other cultures as well. Repeated incidents can cause stereotypes and bias against Latinos in white America. Preliminary studies indicate that Latinos are both stopped and searched by police at higher rates than whites (Muchetti, 2006). Training law enforcement about cultural competence within their communities can help reduce the negative backlash they receive, specifically from the underserving Latino population. Discrimination and racial profiling against Latinos can minimize to what it is today and have a better positive outlook for future generations.

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Strict control of the borders has never been enacted in the practice of American immigration policy. Considering that America was a developing country and needed settlers, open borders were legal until the late 19th century. During the 1920s, there were advocates who restricted and against southern and eastern Europeans, Asians, and Mexican immigration. All these populations have faced severe discrimination from the superior white race when looking back at US history. A great deal of our Latino population back then came from our residing neighbors in Mexico. In 1924, the first restriction against Mexicans came into place. A passport, visa, or any official ID were required to stay or enter the country, which most Mexicans could not afford. However, this did not stop the “American dream” that Mexicans had for their future and family. Crossing over the border was the next risky alternative, which resulted in them becoming illegal immigrants. Ironically, border patrol officials were more concerned with the Southwest border than the north and ensured that more Mexicans would be deported than Canadians and Europeans. The discrimination against the Latino population has grown and keeps growing as the decade’s passed by, the primary cause of it is deeply rooted from the American past. Immigrants are immigrants and should be treated the same, though that was not the case. It appears that if you are brown, you face drastic measures for coming into a country illegally compared to a white descendant. The number of deportations increased to 40% by 1968. According to Cournoyer (2017), whites are less likely than people of color to be arrested and convicted. Privileged whites often adopt methods to maintain power and restrict members of minority groups from access to jobs, housing, education, political office, and even voting in elections. Discrimination is exhibited everywhere. Currently, there are more than 40 million Mexicans, Central Americans, and Latinos in the United States, with about 6 million who lack official papers (Ngai 2006). Today, Latinos impact our economy in a positive way. They are the foundation of many services provided in the United States such as but not limited to farm labor, food processing, construction, and janitorial services.

The Fourth Amendment states that people have a right to be secured against unreasonable searches and seizure without probable cause. “Latinos pose a danger not because their conduct is illegal, but because of their purported status- they are illegal. Therefore, they are more in danger to being searched” (Carbado and Harris, 2011). This statement reflects that race can always be a probable factor when it comes to immigration laws which breaks the Fourth Amendment, though some may argue that is not the case. Latinos are moving away from the west and southern areas of the states that consist of a smaller Latino population, this increases their chances to become a victim of racial profiling. In Iowa, there was a story released about a town meeting between police officers and members of the community concerning racial profiling. People spoke up about their humiliation, fear and treatment with police officers. As the chief of the Iowa state patrol officer quoted, “there are a lot of things we are not aware of. I’m from a small town in Iowa, this has opened my eyes to different perspectives” (Muchetti 2006). The constant negative interactions with police officials have an unfavorable impact for Latinos, such as lack of interaction and mistrust for them due to their fear of being asked about their immigration status because of the way they look.

 When it comes down to finding a solution in reducing the misconduct of law authorities against the Hispanic community, SBIRT will not be used due to it not being an effective intervention for this population. SBIRT stands for Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment. It is used for people who have substance use disorders and those with higher levels of risk. Although, there can be people in our population that can relate to the screening, it is something that is not being focused on specifically. Therefore, a better intervention would be through a community approach that can train these officials in culturally competence practice within their own community they are serving. Cultural competence can be defined is defined as the extent to which an individual has embraced the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a different culture. Cultural competency trainings have been developed but not fully effective in the testing process. These trainings focus on developing knowledge of issues about economic, geographic, language, and social diversity, as well as other challenges which have been faced by underserving populations (Gedig 2011). The results of some of these trainings fail to teach their goal due to the focus put on the differences between cultures rather than the similarities. The moment law enforcement gains an understanding for other cultures, only then will they have been able to be culturally competent. While cultural competency trainings have not been effective in the testing trials, other training methods have been developed in the health care and counseling services that can possibly be evolved to applying cultural competency in the future.

Different methods and researches have been emerged to test for cultural competency. Implicit Association Tests (IAT) were designed to examine biases and internal experiences which can be attributed to personal preferences or stereotypes developed subconsciously. Another tool is a game called Multicultural Jeopardy played within police stations. Officers are put on teams to answer questions about other cultural groups to test their knowledge. This allows to evaluate each officer’s knowledge and where cultural training is to be needed. The Cultural Competency Organizational Assessment-360 or COA360’s main purpose is to improve the cultural competency of healthcare organizations so it can lead to an increase of staff that can relate to a diverse population with a decrease in miscommunication between providers and patients. Just like law enforcers, health providers experience around the same issues such as distrust between one another, language barriers, and different beliefs concerning health due to their cultural background (Ngai 2006). Social workers for the Hispanic population are an expanding necessity that requires the knowledge and a broad understanding of human diversity. The Council of Social Work Education provides guidelines for BSW and MSW curriculums indicating they shall “promote understanding, affirmation, and respect for people from diverse backgrounds” and should “emphasize the interlocking and complex nature of culture and personal identity, as well as related factors that many influence assessment, planning, intervention and research” (de Haymes and Kilty, 2007). This will create an effective practice not only for the Latino community, but also for people with diverse backgrounds. More research is needed to be done in this field but the main purpose of everything tested is to keep the representation of the minorities in their community being served in officials minds.

The main purpose of these interventions and studies will be to hopefully decrease the chance of constant fear and avoidance of police. At the end of the day, emergencies happen, and their main purpose is to serve the community. Adding to that, Latinos have every right to feel the way they do, because if history taught us anything about discrimination due to immigration, it will not go away. It will continue to happen because not everyone will view a brown person, immigrant or not, as innocent, at least not anytime soon. I find it astonishing to find out during my research, that there are no highly effective interventions that are known to increase cultural competency. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that law authorities must also receive proper training and undergo through cultural awareness courses to help better serve their community population. Ever since taking history classes in elementary school, I believe that the becoming of the United States was based on the idea of equality, no matter where you came from. In the last recent decades, we have seen a gradual change for acceptance of minorities and those with different beliefs. Despite of the changes, the acts of hateful crime, racial profiling, and discrimination against people of color, a person’s beliefs, sexuality, or just of any minority group population is very well and alive in present day white America. As a minority myself, I will strive to engage and educate myself of other underserving populations so I can be the help someone needs as I continue my field in social work. Since there is a need for social workers who can serve or understand underserving populations, I would like to be able to be a part of the growing number of workers in making that difference for my community. By the time I can start practicing, new laws and policies will be put into place. It will be one of my duties to keep up with these changes and the effects it has on my community, as well as in the states. We will always have to encounter new obstacles and I am willing to adapt to those changes and serve those in need of guidance. The Code of Ethics highlights on service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. These are all factors in creating a safe environment and a step-by-step process on how to tackle the issue. The profiling of minorities based on discrimination or racial bias from law officials needs to be put in the light so that Latinos and other minorities can feel safe in their daily lives without the trauma.

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 Taking everything into account, the perspective towards the Latino community is an issue that law enforcement seems to struggle with. An interesting study conducted by Theodore and Habans (2016) stated that if legal or illegal immigrants continue to refrain from interactions with higher authority, this can have a negative implication in future generations with their encounters. Immigration in the United States from Latinos will be an ongoing reason as to why they continue to be a target for racial profiling. Law enforcers must find solutions to prevent racial profiling with minorities and engage in some change to their protocol in training that includes a gain of knowledge in the communities they are serving, without indicting Latinos and other minority groups of crime, stereotypes, and feeding them fear. This cannot be achievable in a matter of a days or weeks. Even though there are interventions that have not been presented to increase cultural competence yet, there are still other studies that have been able to play the role temporarily in decreasing the amount of racial profiling within the community through knowledge and educating others. The goal of cultural competency is to shift the importance of differences in other cultures to the examination of officers’ own beliefs, biases, and values in order to raise awareness about the powers and privileges that are associated with their cultural identities. By limiting the racial bias between the Latino and white communities, we must start with our law enforcement.


  • Carbado, D. W., & Harris, C. I. (2011). Undocumented Criminal Procedure. UCLA Law Review, 58(6), 1543–1616.
  • Cournoyer, Barry R. (2017). The Social Work Skills Workbook. Boston, Ma: Cengage Learning.  
  • de Haymes, M. V., & Kilty, K. M. (2007). Latino Population Growth, Characteristics, and Settlement Trends: Implications for Social Work Education in a Dynamic Political Climate. Journal of Social Work Education, 43(1), 101–116.
  • Hickey, R. (2016). Should Cultural Competency Be a Part of Police Testing? Law Enforcement Executive Forum, 16(2), 85-97.
  • Muchetti, A. E. (2005). Driving While Brown: A Proposal for Ending Racial Profiling in Emerging Latino Communities. Harvard Latino Law Review, 8, 1–32.
  • Ngai, M. M. (2006). The Lost Immigration Debate: Border control didn’t always dictate policy. Boston Review, 31(5), 36-38.
  • Theodore, N., & Habans, R. (2016). Policing Immigrant Communities: Latino perceptions of police involvement in immigration enforcement. Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies, 42(6), 970-988.


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