Jim Shee was driving to his birthday party in Phoenix on April 6, 2010 when a police officer pulled him over and asked him for his “papers.”
“I asked him why he had stopped me,’’ recalled Shee, a lifelong U.S. citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent who lives in Litchfield Park, Arizona. “He said I looked suspicious.”
After reviewing Shee’s driver’s license and other documents, the officer let him go without a citation.
“I was burned up, mad,’’ he said. “There was no reason to stop me.”
Ten days later, it happened again to Shee, but this time with his Japanese American wife. A highway patrol officer pulled him over and asked to see his papers, Shee said. The officer said he pulled Shee over because the windows on the car were tinted, and issued him a repair order.
Shee decided to join a lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center, both members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, to challenge SB1070, Arizona’s bill that requires law enforcement to question individuals about their immigration status if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the individuals may be unlawfully present in the country.
72-year-old Shee, a retired real estate investor who founded the Phoenix Asian-Hispanic Alliance and serves as the vice president of the state’s Asian Chamber of Commerce, said he decided to pursue litigation because he didn’t want to see other people of color have to go through his experience.
He and his wife now carry their U.S. passports with them when they leave their house out of concern they may be detained or arrested without proper documents.
“I have two grandchildren,’’ he added. “I don’t want to see them go through what we have to go through.”
Shee urged more Asian Americans to speak out against such anti-immigrant laws, which he added has sparked anxiety among both undocumented immigrants and citizens.
“This is just not a Latino issue. It is our problem too, and is happening to our immediate community,’’ he said. “Other Asian Americans need to step up besides me. They can tell different stories.”
“APALC joined a coalition of civil rights groups to challenge SB 1070 because it is unconstitutional and would result in widespread discrimination and harm to all of our communities.” said APALC Senior Staff Attorney Yungsuhn Park. “What happened to Jim Shee illustrates that racial profiling and anti-immigrant laws harm Asian Americans, Latinos, and all communities of color.”
[Above Photo by Alonso Parra]