By Alexis To
“I see my fellow Asians typically in Brooklyn on 8th Avenue, Chinatown, and Flushing being stopped by police officers to be questioned and searched,” said Jacky Wang, a junior at Queens College.
Asians are negatively stereotyped and because of racial profiling, they are wrongfully assumed to sell bootlegged merchandise to customers. Asians are often stopped by police officers if they see them carrying large luggage or bags because they have the suspicion that they may be selling fake designer merchandise.
“I was stopped by a police officer and I refused to let him search me, and I was taken to the precinct,” said Stuart Lee, a 4th year high school student. The police stopped Lee and asked him to be searched because of the way he dressed: cap, baggy jeans, and loose shirt, which fit the description of a how a typical thug would dress. When he was taken to the precinct they searched him. After their search, they found a pocketknife that is used to open bottles and peel fruits and he was charged with possession of an illegal weapon. He was sentenced to one month of community service for an item that is used to make his life easier
Margaret Chin, City Councilwoman of Chinatown proposed a bill that will make it a misdemeanor to buy fake designer merchandise. Those who are charged with buying fake designer merchandise can face up to one year in jail, as well as a possible $1000 fine. This will heavily impact the Asian community in Chinatown because Canal Street is known to have many venders selling fake designer merchandise. If this law gets passed, then Chinatown will be a target for police officers to racially profile anyone passing.
Some think that stopping and searching is wrong because it limits an individual’s freedom. “I feel that stopping and searching Asians by racial profiling is wrong because then police are able to search people in Chinatown and give them fines for wearing fake products if Ms. Chin’s bill is passed,” said Wilson Chen, a sophomore at Brooklyn College.
Jian Wu was stopped and frisked in the Bronx while coming home alone late at night. “I have been stopped by a police officer a while ago for possession of illegal narcotics,” said Jian Wu, a Chinese local who lives in the Bronx. The reason the police gave him for them frisking him was because he was alone in Bronx at night. After the search, Jian was found clean and was released without charges.
Many recent immigrants don’t know their rights. “Asians that get stopped and searched by police usually don’t know their amendment rights because they believe that police have the power to do as they please,” said Edward Lin, a senior of College of Staten Island. The Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by police officers. This means that police officers are not allowed to search people without a reasonable suspicion. Those who do not know about the Fourth Amendment typically submit to the police and let them search them because they believe that police officers have the authority to do whatever they want. Immigrants that came from China believe that police officers in the U.S. can search them the same way as police do in China.
The situation is particularly stressful for illegal immigrants because they are afraid of being stopped and question by police officers.
“Illegal immigrants have a huge fear of being stopped, questioned, or searched because they don’t have any legal identification on them,” said Eliot Wu, a sophomore at Hunter College.
The main reason illegal immigrants are so scared of being around the presence of police is because of their citizen status. They are scared of being deported. When a police officer stops to search them and they are unable to show any form of identification of themselves, they are taken to the police station. Once they are taken to the police station, they are forced to identify themselves or they may face harsher convictions for identity fraud or for being unwilling to cooperate with police. If the police find out they are illegal immigrants, there are sent back to their country and face severe punishment, unless they are married to a U.S. citizen.
It’s a problem all over the city, not just in Chinatown. “No matter where you go-Toys ‘R’ US, Best Buy, Walmart-racial profiling will still exist because of the mentality that if people dress or look a different way, then they might be a possible threat to the community,” said a police officer in the 68th precinct that was wished to remain anonymous.
“Personally, I don’t use racial profiling, but if I get a call and the individual or group fits into the description, then I have no choice but to search them,” he said.