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From African-American Rights to Immigrant Rights in 50 yrs. By Roger Algase

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On this 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington and "I Have a Dream" speech, I want to begin by congratulating and applauding Immigration Daily for its August 27 editorial comparing King's fight for equality and freedom from persecution for African-Americans with today's fight for equality and freedom from persecution for immigrants.

This editorial makes me prouder than ever to be one of the bloggers for this unique and irreplaceable publication.

As I mentioned in a recent post, my first law office job after graduating from law school was in a small New York civil rights firm where, in 1963, I was working for a partner who was a close advisor to Dr. King.

As I also mentioned, I played a small role in helping prepare a successful copyright infringement lawsuit based on the "I Have a Dream" speech; in fact I actually prepared the copyright application for the speech for filing.

The fact that my first law firm job involved civil rights does not make me an authority or expert in the history of the civil rights movement by any means, but it did help to put me in touch with people who were directly involved in the movement and give me a window into the way they were thinking and what they were trying to accomplish.

Immigration Daily
is absolutely correct in stating that the civil rights movement, and Dr. King himself, were concerned with the larger issue of human equality, not just redressing specific grievances involving the African-American community, important as they were.

The essence of the civil rights movement grew out of the fact that black people (the term "African-American" was not yet in wide use at that time) were not considered as full human beings - certainly not in the South, where they were persecuted and humiliated in every possible way, and subject to the constant threat of violence - but in the North as well.

But Martin Luther King and the other civil rights leaders never lost sight of the fact that their movement was not only for the rights of black people in the United States, but for persecuted people all over the world.

Ironically, prejudice against immigrants, while definitely real, was not as big a factor at that time - at least not in my experience growing up in New York and going to college and law school in Cambridge, Massachusetts - for the simple reason that the racist 1924 national origin quotas were still in force and most immigrants - at least on the East Coast, were white. It would be two more years, in 1965, before these quotas were abolished and the demographic sea change in immigration which is still taking place, and which House Republicans are bitterly resisting today by trying to kill CIR, began.

This is also not to say that prejudice against Asians and Latinos, US citizens and immigrants alike, was nonexistent at that time - far from it.

But there cannot be the slightest doubt that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would be speaking out for equality and against persecution of immigrants now. Just as the fight for "integration", i.e. doing away with the racial segregation laws, was at the center of the civil rights movement on August 28, 1963, the fight for immigration, including but not limited to legalization and full citizenship for 11 million immigrants of color, is at the heart of the battle for civil rights - and human rights - today.

This is not to say that full equality has been obtained for African-Americans by any means today, 50 years after Martin Luther King's speech.

The struggle for equality and human rights includes African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, Muslims, GLBT people and all persecuted minorities, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. Those who would seek to divide minority group from minority group do not have the interests of any of them at heart.

The fight for human rights, justice and equality also includes the rights of women, who are, of course, openly persecuted in many parts of the world and are also on the right wing hit list here in America over issues such as abortion, contraception and equal pay. I am also sure that the full story of how women are victimized by this administration's immigration detention and deportation madness has yet to be told.

In an upcoming post, I will look at some of the worst examples of persecution of immigrants and other minorities in America today: including the targeting of Muslims, the militarization of the Mexican border, the appalling immigration detention system fed by the greed of private prison operators, and, above all, the deportation mill which continues on unabated at the highest rate in our modern history.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work is not yet finished. It has only just begun.

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Updated 08-28-2013 at 11:33 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Tim Ho's Avatar
    Good Job - an opine we can all support!

    A request: When you compile your examples of persecutors of migrants, please include the foreign national upon foreign national crimes.

    My experience revealed more poor souls victimized by their own country folk than any racist / ethnocentric government entity.

    Putrid (quasi and outright illegal) "immigration services" firms taking money on false pretenses of legitimacy come to mind.

    Good job Roger!
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Thank you for your comment. I agree that unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of other people within their own immigrant community is also a big problem.

    USCIS is warning against immigration scans in its website, and I understand that AILA and other bass associations are quite concerned about the issue of fraudulent immigration "services" too.

    Immigrants already have more than enough problems without this.

    Roger Algase
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