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Immigration is a Civil Rights Issue

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Immigration is a civil right. Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer, practicing law throughout the United States out of our offices in St. Louis, Missouri and San Diego, California. Today is the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of the greatest civil rights leader of our lifetime or of American history, Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. Martin Luther King was shot down in Memphis in 1968, on April 4th. He had come to Memphis to help organize sanitation workers, and they had been trying to get better pay and to organize as a union. And the Memphis officials were fighting them hard on giving them those rights. Dr. King had been to Memphis a few weeks earlier, and he didn’t know that a man named James Earl Ray, a man from St. Louis, was actually on his tail, trying to set up an assassination attempt of Dr. King. Dr. King gave a speech on April 3rd, 1968, in Memphis.

If you haven’t been to the Memphis Civil Rights Museum, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the greatest museums that I’ve ever been to. Lucky for us, Memphis is only four hours from St. Louis. And so whenever I get to Memphis, I always try to visit the museum. You can actually go to the hotel room at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was staying. You can see the balcony where he was shot from. You can even now the museum has acquired the flophouse across the street where James Earl Ray, the assassin, shot Dr. King from. Dr. King obviously believed in civil rights for all. He was very much about bringing up everyone and sort of fighting against white supremacy. And Dr. King, if he were alive today, would have definitely been in favor of immigrants and would have recognized immigration as a civil right.

We take Dr. King very seriously around here at the Hacking Immigration Law. He’s a real role model for me, someone that I’ve studied a lot, his ability to speak truth to power, but to do so in a way that did not antagonize always the listener. In other words, he could get his message across. He would not accept the horrible treatment of African-Americans in the United States in the ’50s and ’60s. He spoke out against it, and we’ll never be as remarkable as Dr. King, but his message and his heft and his love of all women and men inspires us every single day here at the Hacking Immigration Law, and I think about him all the time.

I believe that immigration is a civil right. In fact, I believe that immigration right now is the greatest testing spot for our civil rights, that as we’ve just witnessed over the last four years with the vilification and demonization of immigrants, that the attacks on civil liberties start with immigrants. It’s historic, it’s been in our nation’s blood for 200 years. We brought Black people here as slaves. We dragged them here. We banned immigrants from all different kinds of countries. We treated immigrants like shit for years, and now it’s just gotten a little bit more pristine, a little bit quieter, but there’s still a lot of hatred and a lot of negativity directed towards immigrants. And immigrants are really at the front line of the civil rights debate, not to take away from any other group or to say that immigrants have it harder, but I just want you to get my mindset when it comes to immigration and where I see it fitting in our nation’s history and in our political process, because immigration is ultimately a political issue, but it’s also a civil right.

What I mean by that is that I believe that people should be free from the tyranny of the government, should be free from oppression, should be free from vilification in the media, and that we all have to stand together, especially people like me with white skin who have a lot of privileges because of my white skin. We really have to stand with our immigrants from around the world. We really have to do what’s right, because we have so much more power than they do. I don’t like bullies, I don’t like it when people are taken advantage of, and that’s why we do everything we can here every day. That’s why our number one motto is we fight for immigrants every day, and we do it every day because every day immigrants are under assault.

I’d like to think that Dr. King would be happy with the work that we do here, that he would support what we’re trying to do, and that he would be at the forefront of standing with immigrants in Washington, DC, and around the country. So I’m going to end with that. I’m getting a little bit emotional. I got to get back to my usual topics, but I sure hope that you spend a little time today thinking about Dr. King, educating yourself, and thinking about organizing, because organizing is so powerful. It’s how he got the Montgomery bus boycott to protest the treatment of African-Americans on buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and it’s through organization and becoming together that we really are stronger and that we can really accomplish anything.

So I wish you all the best of luck, you know how to get ahold of us. I’m not even going to recite it all in this video. I’m still a little too choked up, but don’t forget on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you know where I’ll be usually, and I will be there this week, answering all your questions on our immigration answer show. Thanks a lot, and have a great day.

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