Martin Luther King, and the Struggle for Immigrant Rights.

As we head into the long weekend, honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,  we often focus on the bare-bone, watered-down curriculum that is palatable for most Americans: “I have a Dream” and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.   As important as these two events were, to believe they represent the work and life of MLK is like saying a poodle is about the same as a pit-bull.

King was all about non-violence, human equality, and justice, but his dream was not just about “feel good” equality. The “Dream” King articulated at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, matured into a movement, “The Poor People’s Campaign.” By 1968 this movement was uniting poor “whites, blacks, and browns,” the people left behind in a nation that was more concerned about waging war in Vietnam, than caring for the disenfranchised masses within her own boarders.   (sound familiar 99%?)

King was building a movement that would change America;  and that is why he was assassinated in April of 1968.   At the cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement and of King’s philosophy/theology is the understanding that ALL persons have basic rights just because they are people.  Prior to this movement, most whites (and some black) Americans believed, or at least accepted, that the State had the right to dictate how basic human rights could be exercised.

Prior to 1950’s, it was basically agreed that the power to control the places people could eat, with whom they could associate, how and where they could travel and even live, was appropriately given to the government.   The State had the right to determine (and enforce) the rights that were available to various classes of people (white and non-white, rich and poor, Christian and Jew)

We find it shocking that people blindly supported segregation and vote suppression, and yet today, as a nation we cannot see our way to create sensible and just immigration reform.  

Our nation on one hand welcomes, the millions of immigrant workers who willing do the hard and dirty jobs many citizens reject, as well as start business and generate jobs.  On the other hand, we pull the rug out from under them.  We trap these people here, cutting them off from families in their home countries.  We benefit from the work they do and the role they play in our economy, but yet refuse to allow them to participate fully in education and opportunities.  Generally speaking, the United States wants the riches and benefits of immigrants, yet reject their full humanity as partners in our nation.

I too,  have a dream:

I have a dream that in 2013 Americans will recall that we are a nation of immigrants and that we will stop blaming new immigrants for the problems of our nation and that we will learn to work together, for a stronger nation and healthier world.

I have a dream that America will wake-up from the delusion that immigrants are a burden; the illusion that they take more than they contribute, and that we will awake to see the riches, blessings, and benefits immigrants bring.

I have a dream that all Americans; black, white, and brown, will join hands, across the land, across borders, cross race and class and realize Human Rights are not bestowed by the State, but endowed by the Creator.

We Have A Dream!


(I originally posted this 1.20.2012 to the blog for MIFN (Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network) when I was working as the part-time Executive Director)

Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network is excited to play our part in helping this dream become reality.  Classes for parents, advocacy for students, and connections in neighborhoods are all part of this strategy.  Thanks for your part in advancing human rights and basic civil rights.  Please call or email (  to see how you can join in these efforts.  Your donations are also needed as we move forward into this critical time.

Nine Latino parents completed the six month intensive training, congrats!

6 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, and the Struggle for Immigrant Rights.”

  1. after spending a few minutes looking around the webite Teresa wanted to link to my blog – I knew I HAD to approve her post – it is shocking and enlightening the kinds of comments people make, thanks Teresa for giving us a glimpse into how some people think.

  2. the purpose of that web site was not to share facts, but to deny the importance of the Civil Rights movement and support white claims of superiority. The “facts” some of which are supported and well know – others of which are questionable do not deserve a reply, WHY? I do not deny the power of the Declaration of Independence – just because Thomas Jefferson was an adulterer and possibly a pedophile, I do not call for George W Bush to be tried for war crimes, and abuse of power, even though it is well know he lied (even worse than college plagiarism) to draw us into war in Iraq… my point is people make mistakes – even do evil – but the ideals of King are much larger than he was, and the benefit continues from the movement he inspired,

    I do not worship MLK, but the site you linked to seeks to villanize him, and (reading the comments and other pages) many people try to use these “facts” to defend their racist attitudes

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