John Quinones Goes Undercover for Racial Profiling Scenario

John Quinones goes undercover for racial profiling scenario.

ByABC News
February 2, 2011, 11:23 AM

Feb. 3, 2011 — -- In 2010, the simmering debate about U.S. immigration reform exploded when Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 was signed into law. A portion of the bill requires police, during the enforcement of a law, to ask for someone's identification if that person is thought to be in the country illegally.

Supporters say the law is a way to control Arizona's borders, and make the state a safer place. But critics say the law allows for widespread racial profiling. The legislation states that during the enforcement of a law -- even a small infraction such as broken headlight -- law enforcement officers are required to ask for identification from someone they think might be in the U.S. illegally. The fear is that the only ones being stopped and questioned by police would be people who look or sound Latino.

Hispanic U.S. citizens faced deportation threats before the passage of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Even though the law triggered a wave of protests, polls showed that over 50 percent of Arizona voters supported the bill. The law went into effect in July of 2010, but the more controversial parts of it were suspended by a federal judge and are currently being disputed in the courts.

"What Would You Do?" decided to travel to Arizona. We installed our hidden cameras at BK Carne Asada and Hotdogs, a popular restaurant in Tucson, and hired actors to portray an off-duty security guard and a Latino customer. Later, host John Quinones, who is Hispanic, went undercover to see how restaurant patrons would react when he was the one facing racial profiling. (See the next page for more on Quinones' undercover work.)

In our first scenario, the security guard approaches the actor playing the Latino customer moments after he enters the restaurant.

"You got any ID on you? Documentation? Papers?" he asks. "Are you visiting? Do you understand a little English?"

At first, people who seem to notice what's going on just stare nervously at the two men. But within a few minutes, a man charges up and confronts the security guard.

"Excuse me, who are you? Do you work here?" asks the man.

"No, I'm a security guard, I just stopped in to get some food," replies the guard. "I'm just trying to be a good American."

"I wouldn't say you're a good American. I'd say you're an ass!" yells the man.

What our actor playing the security guard was doing -- racial profiling -- was exactly what some argue would happen under the new immigration law.

We wondered what would happen if the security guard challenges not just one Latino man, but an entire family.

"… I noticed you guys walk in, so I just wanted to make sure you're legal. … Just show me your ID," says our security guard to three actors portraying a Latino family.

"Are you flipping kidding me?" yells Rebecca Russ, a restaurant patron who gets in the guard's face. "You want to ask them if they belong here? Do you belong here?"

"Don't you guys want to know if they have ID?" the security guard asks.

"It's nobody's [expletive] business, get out!" yells Russ. "Oh my God, I want to punch him! ... They have a daughter!"