Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy birthday Dr. King!

Martin Luther King, Jr., had he not been murdered, would have been 86 years old today (yesterday, actually—took me past midnight to get this out), and the right wing celebrates, as is their recent habit, by making up idiotic lies about how he supported their vile agenda or would have done so had he known what it was, as in:

Was an Endless Flow of Immigrant Workers who Take Jobs and Suppress Wages Dr. King’s Dream?

Of course the only people who dream of an endless flow of workers depressing wages (not "suppressing" them, that's not even literate) are the great employers of migrant labor, funders of the Republican party, who recognize that the endless flow cannot be stopped and would very much prefer that these workers should remain undocumented and unprotected; the situation as it is, with its floods of underpaid workers, is what they like.

That is why they oppose comprehensive immigration reform alongside minimum wage legislation. It's the hope of lower pay for everybody they employ. Undocumented immigrants take the worst jobs at pay scales for which black and white citizens won't do them, submit to abusive work conditions and wage theft, and don't get benefits. They're trying to suggest that this is a situation resulting from immigration reform, but it's what we've already got.

While those who support comprehensive immigration reform are the same as those who want wages to go up and new jobs to be created by the economic activity of prosperous immigrant communities getting good pay, adequate housing, and decent healthcare, the way it used to be back when my grandfather came to this country, when everybody that could get out of the boat and didn't have tuberculosis was on an instant path to citizenship. Except then that didn't obtain for people of color, and now it will, as it should.

It applies to people of color round the world, from China and the Philippines, West Africa and the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America and Ecuador, thanks to the Immigration and Family Act of 1965 , one of the great pillars of Lyndon Johnson's civil rights legislation alongside the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, abolishing the old national origins formula of immigration law in the US in favor of a new less discriminatory system. If you have a hard time accepting the comprehensive immigration reform that's on offer today and you're not a major employer of undocumented immigrants yourself, you're probably somebody who's never reconciled to the de-racialization of immigration policy, and your neck is probably of the red variety.

When Johnson and King were planning the lobbying effort for the year's civil rights and anti-poverty legislation exactly 50 years ago, January 15 1965, LBJ saw them all as a fairly seamless garment:
King: Yes. Yes. Well, this is wonderful, and I certainly appreciate your--
President Johnson: The two things you do for us, now. You find the most ridiculous illustration you can on voting and point it up and repeat it and get everybody else to do it. Second thing is please look at that labor committee in the House and Senate. Please look at that health committee. Please look at that immigration committee. And let us try to get health and education and poverty through the first 90 days.
King: Yes. Well, we're going to be doing that. You can depend on our absolute support.
President Johnson: Whitney's group can go to talking to them and Roy's group can and your group can and they ought to tell [William Fitts] Ryan of New York and they ought to tell so-and-so in Philadelphia and they ought to tell so-and-so from Atlanta, "Please get this bill reported."
Immigration reform obviously wasn't of primary importance to Dr. King, but he certainly had no trouble accepting it or we would have heard about that, which is why people associated with him like his son Martin Luther King III, his daughter Bernice King, and his close associate Clarence B. Jones all invoke him when they take their stands for immigrants, the Dream Act, and President Obama's executive actions limiting deportation. However much they may disagree with each other on some other issues, they favor the broadest possible pro-immigrant reform and are certain that Dr. King would have done the same. As Jones puts it,
what I can say for a certainty is that he was so totally committed to assuring that every human being, every human personality would be absolutely treated equally before the law. Secondly, we should find a basis on the basis of love -- listen to me -- love, compassion, fairness, and elementary decency to structure a pathway to citizenship that will enable our Hispanic brothers and sisters and their families to achieve the full benefit of the rights that citizens have.

Happy birthday! Photo by AP via Seattle Times.

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