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Honor the SC Church Shooting Victims. Pass Immigration Reform. By Roger Algase

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As the nation tries to recover from the despicable act of domestic terrorism by a hate crazed young white supremacist who murdered nine innocent black people at a church service this past week, there has been much discussion about what is the best way to honor the lives of the victims.

(As an aside, I would like to mention that there is a story in my own family history relating to black-white relations in South Carolina. My grandfather, a late-19th century immigrant escaping from anti-Semitic persecution in Czarist Russia, was the Rabbi of a Jewish congregation in Beaufort, SC at the beginning of the last century. He was forced to leave his post and move to the North because his congregation objected to his personal friendship he had formed with a local black minister, whom my grandfather (horrors!) used to invite to his home (to play cards together, not to worship God, as my mother used to tell the story).

To get back to the most recent horrible shooting, more than a hundred years later, I would like to suggest that the best way to honor the victims would be to pass immigration reform, including legalization and eventual US citizenship for the 11 million people now country without legal status. What? Where is the connection between the mass killing at an African-American church and immigration?

True, there are no reports that any of the victims was an immigrant or that this was a church with significant immigrant membership. Nothing that the alleged killer has said or done indicates that he had any particular feelings about immigrants, one way or the other. So what does immigration reform have to do with this terrible hate crime?

The last question answers itself. First there is denial. According to a news report following the mass murder, Fox News immediately tried to characterize the church killings as directed against religion, not against black people. This kind of spin is a deliberate. terrible insult to the victims, and to America, as the suspect has already confessed and made clear that he was motivated only by racial hatred against blacks.

Second, and most fundamental of all, comes hate. In the church massacre case, it was hate against American-born US citizens of color (who, up until 150 years ago would be been ineligible for citizenship because of their color, according to the supreme law of this land).

In the case of failure to pass Congressional immigration reform, and the bitter opposition to reform through executive action on the part of more than half the states in the Union who are suing to block the president's initiative, there can be no denying that one of the principal motives for supporting mass deportation of 11 million people is the negative stereotyping of Mexican, Central American and South American immigrants as "invaders". "criminals" "freeloaders", "job stealers" and "disease carriers" among white voters in key states. This is also behind the movement to take away American citizenship from the US-born children of these unpopular immigrants, which has been a prelude to persecution and expulsion in the past in other countries of the world.

No lengthy explanation is needed to show that hate against unpopular immigrant groups, whether Irish, Asians, Italians, Jews, and many others in the past; or now, mainly Latino, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and African immigrants, has always been part of America's immigration history and still is, with only the targets changing.

If we truly want to honor the memory of the church shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina, let us overcome hate, not only against African-Americans, but against all people of color, including the 11 million immigrants in America who are forced to live as an underclass, with no rights or legal status, and in constant fear of arrest and deportation. Let us stop persisting in the polite and politically correct (on both sides) denial that prejudice against minority immigrants has anything to do with the frantic opposition to allowing them legal status. Let us enact immigration reform.

And let us also outgrow and overcome the nativism and xenophobia which, even if it might not be specifically racially based (which is debatable) is making Indian, Chinese and other H-1B, L-1 and employment-based skilled and professional immigrants scapegoats for America's own economic difficulties or shortcomings. Let us also increase the caps on H-1B visas and put an end to the administrative "culture of no" which currently bars so many skilled, highly educated workers from our shores.

Then, the tragic deaths of nine Americans who were murdered solely because of the color of their skin will have more meaning.

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Updated 06-21-2015 at 09:58 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. Akkam's Avatar
    Deleted. This space is not intended for advertising or promotional material.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 06-22-2015 at 04:33 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. Retired INS's Avatar
    The address of the S.C. AME church was put on a blackboard in the Mormon church I attend. Everyone was encouraged to write. However, we don't believe the event should be used for political advantage. The shooting has no relevance to your goal of passing immigration reform. I believe in reform, but I believe in addressing the issues, not taking advantage of others.
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Retired INS's argument, in essence, is that the hate against African-Americans which led to the Charleston Church shooting (and a wave of arson attacks against black churches in the South) has no relation to the hate against Latino immigrants which is blocking immigration reform and creating concentration-camp like conditions in ICE's "family" detention centers, among other things. Trying to segment racism in this manner goes against every reality of America's past and present. It is no more tenable that claiming that prejudice against gays is nothing more than an exercise in "religious freedom".

    Let us stop trying to make excuses for hate and prejudice of any kind. Instead, we should combat bigotry and strive to eliminate it in all of its forms.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 07-01-2015 at 07:50 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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