On immigration, follow MLK’s guidance. It’s about human dignity

Yesterday, a powerful editorial appeared in the Houston Chronicle. The author, African-American Reverend Harvey Clemons Jr. talks about educating himself to debunk immigration myths and does it all from the frame of justice and scripture used by Martin Luther King Jr.

I often shy away from immigration reform arguments that name-check MLK Jr. or discuss the movement as the modern day “civil rights” struggle. I am uncomfortable appropriating the work of those who have come before me to define today’s fight. However, I think that this editorial correctly places the crux of both King’s argument and the need for immigration reform on one thing: human dignity.

Though the conversation concerning immigration in America is more ancient than King, King’s vision provides a helpful tool with which to view the immigration struggle today. Immigration is about human dignity…

The Reverend’s own journey from ignorance to education about the issue is a story that must be told more often. The myths surrounding immigration in this country are false, but until we can open more eyes, we won’t be able to open more hearts.

The perception garnered from the media is often that undocumented immigrants simply go around the open door of the legal immigration system, but that morning I learned how an unworkable immigration system closes the vast majority of legal avenues for those who desire to immigrate legally. The perception from the media is often that immigrants do not pay taxes; that morning I learned undocumented workers pay taxes and to a much greater degree than what they consume in our state, with an estimated $400 million surplus. Also, I did not know undocumented immigrants contributed more than $17 billion to our state’s economy, how an enforcement-only policy would cost our economy $651 billion in annual output, or how immigrant parents lived continually under the threat of being separated from their children. For too long, advocates who fear immigrants have acted as the primary molders of our perception concerning immigration, convincing us all too easily that their fears fall in line with reality.

And perhaps most importantly, the Reverend Clemons adeptly weaves the current debate into a broad historic pattern of the struggle for justice.

Listen not to false prophets who wrap their politics around the fear of the immigrant. It is not a new song they sing. In fact, it is eerily similar to the songs sung not too long ago. They sang that slavery was God’s way until that song sounded ridiculous. They altered the song and sang segregation was God’s way until that too sounded ridiculous. Now the song of the false prophets paints the immigrant as a threat to, rather than a pillar of, American society; paints undocumented fathers and mothers working from sunrise to sundown as a drain of our nation’s resources rather than a reminder of our heroic beginnings; and paints immigrant children as a national burden rather than our nation’s blessing.

Recently, my friend took to her Twitter account to summarize just this:

So grateful to be a part of the Immigration Reform movement. What will you tell your children when they ask where YOU stood? [via @NvrComfortable]

For those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet (or those of you who know someone who hasn’t), I suggest  reading the Reverend’s full article. Then, educate yourself. For all the complexity of the immigration issue, your stance on it should be simple: its about human dignity

3 responses to “On immigration, follow MLK’s guidance. It’s about human dignity

  1. Native American Citizen

    WTF is the matter with you liberal idiots. Illegal is just that Illegal. Illegal immigrants need to Leave America and come back legally that is of course unless you are not willing to make America your Only Country – We do not want “Other Country Americans” we want “United States of America Americans” Only. You can have no other Country than America! If you do then leave and do not come back. I speak for Combat Veterans all across America who have seen action in foreign wars and that is go home and come back legally. Our Immigration laws are not broke what is broke is the Politicians who have forgot that they swore allegence to the Constitution and Americas Laws, To Enforce those laws. You want to open the Border Gates to all and give away what is not yours to give than “Get it on the national ballot for a vote and see what the Majority of American Citizens want” – The Illegals should shut the hell up this is not their country it is mine and every other American Citizens Country, What ever happined to the Saying When in Rome do as the Romans do? Want to anger Native American citizens than keep doing what you are doing and you will see a grass roots effort rise up out of the bowels of America and rid America once and for all of all Illegal Immigrants!

  2. Perhaps author, African-American Reverend Harvey Clemons Jr should read the Bible in its full context..You know the part that says that we are to obey the law of the land. If we were usurpers and illegal aliens in another land, we would be piunished to the full extent of their law as witnessed by hitchhikers held in Iran.

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful take on the article and the combination of MLK & the immigrant struggle.

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