Saturday, September 14, 2013

Would Martin Luther King, Jr., Have Supported Immigration Reform?

In the backdrop of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the immigrant rights movement is the civil rights fight of the century and our generation.  Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t address immigration directly but his words in the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, hinted at the importance of immigrants and all who live within the United States when he wrote,

“Moveover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about that happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside of the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

For many Arab Americans, the United States was a place of refuge from oppression, conflicts and war, political persecution and poverty that many endured in the Arab World. The United States was the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families. Their aspirations were to work hard and attain the American dream. To realize this dream for our communities, Arab Americans across the country join the call for immigration reform legislation that keeps families together, provides a pathway to citizenship and respects the civil and human rights of all people. Members of our community are directly impacted by our very broken immigration system. Delays in family reunification applications have left husbands without their wives and most often children without their parents for years at a time, backlog due to background checks, programs such as NSEERS (National Security Entry and Exit Registration System) that have targeted members of our community based on ethnicity and national origin, lack of anti-profiling language that includes religion and national origin as protected categories are just some of the fundamental issues we have with the current immigration system.

The time is now. We can’t wait any longer. Our families continue to be torn apart by unjust deportations, local small businesses and religious institutions raided by immigration enforcement agencies, police departments who are too busy profiling those perceived undocumented instead of catching real criminals and states running rouge passing anti-immigrant legislation across the country.  This must end.

If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today he would be at the forefront of the fight to pass just and humane immigration reform. King would not have stood by idly watching record number of deportations and the unjust treatment of undocumented workers. He would have joined our marches, engaged in civil disobedience, and educated the masses. That is why in his honor and the anniversary of the March on Washington we should realize a dream for many undocumented Americans by passing an immigration reform bill that treats them fairly and provides an earned pathway for citizenship.

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