What Would Dr. King Have Said About Immigration?
Immigration has disappeared from the news as of late, only to be replaced by talk of the economy. Fear of a recession, news of the Fed rate cut, and polls that show that the economy is voters' number one concern dominate the front page and the airwaves. The presidential candidates have replaced talk of fences and amnesty programs with discussions of "change" -- a word that I've heard so much this election that I'm beginning to think the dictionary definition probably reads "Election '08" -- and various economic stimulus packages.
But as DMI's Andrea Batista Schlesinger said in the Central Oregon Community College Foundation's Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Annual Lecture in Bend, Oregon, the issue of immigration is inextricably tied to issues of the economy and the state of the middle class as a whole. Andrea said,
"The immigration debate isn’t just about immigration. It’s about the future of America and the role all of us – all of us who are middle class or who aspire to be – play in that future.
So often we talk about these issues in silos. You know, 'health care' and 'education' and 'the economy.' Politicians and the media approach life this way – with a policy paper or a reporter for each topic.
Yet we don’t wake up on Monday saying, today is 'health care' day. Tuesday is 'tax policy' day, Wednesday 'college affordability,' Thursday 'retirement security,' and Friday 'immigration'...
I see the presidential candidates go from 'health care' being the hot issue to 'recession,' as if the changing nature of our workplaces away from jobs that used to provide health care and retirement security and the financial insecurity faced by millions aren’t related.
It’s all connected.
And the same is true when it comes to immigration. It is foolish to think that we can make – what’s today, Tuesday? – immigration day and figure it all out and wake up tomorrow to tackle the next issue."
Andrea quotes Dr. King as saying, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Immigration, she says, fits perfectly with that statement.
"So if we’re going to talk about immigration, we need to understand that it is connected to globalization, to the power of industry abroad and here at home, to our trade policy, to our values. If these issues are connected, if the fate of the current and aspiring middle class and immigrants are connected, then the only right answer is the one that considers and connects all of us."
A comprehensive immigration policy, said Andrea, has to address the impact of immigration on the current and aspiring middle class.
"The reality is that immigrants – legal and illegal – play a critical role in our economy. They are consumers, entrepreneurs and workers. At the federal level, they pay more in taxes than they receive in services. They resuscitate struggling neighborhoods. They help keep our Social Security system solvent. They provide the services that the middle class relies from morning until night and pick and serve the food that the middle class eats all day.
They even tend to the garden of Mitt Romney’s home.
Our economy isn’t just a zero sum game, where one immigrant working means an American citizen not working. Immigrants start new businesses, create new consumer demand.
A progressive immigration policy recognizes that immigrants play a critical role.
Anyone who says that it is in the best interest of the middle class to round up and deport 12 million people is either misinformed or misleading."
Read the full speech on the DMI website.