Your papers, please

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
German Ordnungspolizei officers examining a man's papers in German-occupied Poland, 1941

"Your papers, please" (or "Papers, please") is an expression or trope associated with police state functionaries demanding identification from citizens during random stops or at checkpoints.[1] It is a cultural metaphor for life in a police state.[2][3]

The phrase was popularized as the first line in the classic 1942 movie Casablanca which depicted life in Vichy-controlled Casablanca during World War II. The film opens with a scene of police officers searching a hotel for refugees fleeing from Nazi-controlled territory. The first line of the film is spoken by a police officer to a civilian he stopped on the street: "May we see your papers, please?" The civilian produces a document, but a second police officer declares that it "expired three weeks ago" and begins to tell the civilian he is under arrest. The civilian attempts to flee the police but a gunshot is heard and the civilian falls to the ground.[4]

Use in the United States[edit]

The phrase has been used disparagingly in the debate over Real ID and national ID cards in the United States.[5][6][7]

It has also been used to refer to interactions with citizens during police stops[8][9] and immigration enforcement.[10] Arizona's controversial SB 1070 law requiring people to carry identification was dubbed the "Papers, Please" law.[11]

The phrase has also been used by the press in relation to a February 2017 incident in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents searching for a suspect demanded identification from passengers exiting a domestic flight.[12][13] In January 2018, bus passengers allege that Border Patrol agents boarded a Greyhound bus in Florida and demanded U.S. identification or a passport from all of those on board.[14]

A lawsuit against Glendale, Arizona police officers alleges that a passenger in a car was tasered on the genitals after he asked an officer why he needed to identify himself during a 2017 traffic stop.[15]

A report from Big Brother Watch, a London-based nongovernmental privacy advocacy group say police use of facial recognition technology in public spaces is like people being "asked for their papers without their consent".[16][17]

During the COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, so-called "Immunity passport" that shows proof of inoculation before a traveler boards a plane or other means of mass transportation. In 2020, IBM developed a digital health pass that would be shown at sports stadiums, workplaces, or transportation systems to allow admittance.[18] There has been increasing controversy regarding the morality of such passports, as well as how this may affect civil liberties and rights. Critics of the proposition compare such document with Ahnenpass.

Various business groups and major airline industry groups have petitioned the Biden administration for the development of temporary credentials, known as virus or vaccine passports, which would show transportation operators if a passenger has been tested or vaccinated for COVID-19.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duncan Long (1 January 2007). Protect Your Privacy: How to Protect Your Identity as Well as Your Financial, Personal, and Computer Records in an Age of Constant Surveillance. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 223–. ISBN 978-1-59921-687-4.
  2. ^ Margaret Hu (November 15, 2011). "'Show Me Your Papers' Laws and American Cultural Values". Jurist.
  3. ^ Michael A. Caloyannides (2004). Privacy Protection and Computer Forensics. Artech House. pp. 298–. ISBN 978-1-58053-831-2.
  4. ^ Epstein, Julius. "Casablanca Screenplay" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Panel Discussion: Your Papers Please, What the Real ID Act Means for American Values". New York Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved November 9, 2016.
  6. ^ Sen. Rand Paul (May 24, 2013). "PAUL: Blocking the pathway to a national ID". The Washington Times.
  7. ^ Tomás R. Jiménez and Mark Krikorian Tomás (February 7, 2008). "Your papers, please". Los Angeles Times.
  8. ^ ""Your Papers, Please:" ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Protect Right to Remain Anonymous". American Civil Liberties Union. March 22, 2004.
  9. ^ Mike Riggs (February 25, 2014). "Yes, Police Can Arrest You for Failing to Identify Yourself". CityLab.
  10. ^ Alfonso Serrano (September 7, 2012). "Immigration Update: Arizona Police Can Now Ask, 'Papers Please'". Time.
  11. ^ Raymond, Adam K. (21 November 2016). "Trump Cabinet Hopeful Forgets Cover Sheet, Exposes DHS Plan for All to See". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  12. ^ Garrett Epps (February 27, 2017). "Papers, Please". The Atlantic.
  13. ^ Keegan Hamilton (February 23, 2017). "Your papers, please". Vice.
  14. ^ Joshua Rhett Miller (January 23, 2018). "Border agent arrest aboard Greyhound bus triggers outcry". New York Post.
  15. ^ Eliott C. McLaughlin (February 10, 2019). "Officer used Taser on man's genitals, says lawsuit accusing Arizona police of torture". CNN.
  16. ^ Cain Burdeau (July 5, 2019). "Report Blasts London Police Use of Facial Recognition Cameras". Courthouse News.
  17. ^ Big Brother Watch. May 2018. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  18. ^ Goldberg, Nicholas (2021-02-26). "Column: My wife is vaccinated. I'm not. Welcome to the new world of haves and have-nots". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  19. ^ Staff Writer (2021-03-09). "Airline and business groups press U.S. to take lead in "virus passport" development". CBS News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2021-03-11.