Submitted to the AFRO by Kevin Daniels
As we celebrate the monumental life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his life to dissolve social inequities for the “other”, the partial government shutdown over immigration security has lasted for over thirty (30) days, which is the longest in United States history (9 of the 15 federal agencies closed). Over 800,000 federal workers and contractors are not receiving a paycheck, which is impacting over 172,000 in the entire state of Maryland and costing $4.8 billion dollars in economic impact throughout the nation. Despite contrary data, President Trump continues to assert that the need for the $5.7 billion dollars “wall” along the southern border is partially for a national emergency to stop the flow of drugs and crime into the country from undocumented workers.
From its inception, importation and immigration have been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the U.S. history. Because the United States is a settler- colonial society, all Americans, except a small percent of Native Americans, can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations around the world. In 2017, after historically having over 40 laws enacted, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services changed their mission statement from being “A Nation of Immigrants” to “A Nation of adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” While a majority of Americans do believe that there should be some form of border security, many are challenged by taking American tax dollars to build a wall that Mexico was to provide the resources to build.
Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform and the anti-immigrant activists who oppose it have one thing in common in that both, in some form, invoke the ethical teachings and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to support their positions on immigration and the welcoming of the strangers. However, he believed that all people, regardless of their race, gender, economic status should be treated equally, fairly, and humanely to reach their full potential. His ethical teachings come from the sacred word “ger” for the hospitality toward a sojourner, alien, resident alien, stranger, foreigner or immigrant. His teachings reflect the fact that society has a sacred responsibility for the welfare of immigrants, treated with justice and fairness, provided regulatory protections, and considered as social equals.
It is clear that as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that America needs to revisit the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which says to the world “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Dr. Kevin Daniels is chair of the Civic Action Committee (Minister’s Conference) and associate professor, Morgan State University, School of Social Work.
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