Friday, April 14, 2006

It's our fight, too

A piece on why immigrants' rights matter for African Americans. -Angela
It's our fight, too
By Rev. Hurmon Hamilton and Rev. Ray Hammond | April 13, 2006

The following remarks were delivered by the Rev. Hurmon Hamilton on behalf of
the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Ten Point Coalition at Boston's
immigration rally on Monday.

WE ARE GATHERED here today to answer a question ringing around our nation: Where
is the Black Church with regard to our 11 million immigrant sisters and brothers
in their struggle for a just immigration policy? Today, the answer is clear. In
Boston, the Black Church is here, standing alongside our immigrant sisters and
brothers fighting for reasonable, just, and humane immigration reform.

However, we, the Black Church, do not come here today unaware or insensitive to
the challenges that immigration presents to the African-American community.
These challenges are complex and they generate many questions that our
communities together must confront and answer. For example, how do we prevent
ourselves from being pitted against one another for the limited unskilled jobs
in a service economy?

And the question of how do we (African-Americans and immigrant communities)
avoid becoming pawns of economic or corporate interests that would welcome
substandard wages, for both native and foreign-born workers? And, how do we
ensure that all members of our communities receive the government services that
we need not just to survive but to thrive?

Then there is the question of how do we ensure that our immigrant status or
ex-offender status is neither a barrier to employment nor an invitation to
exploitation. And how do we make sure that all of our children have access to
the educational resources and opportunities that they need? These challenges
underscore all the more why we must work closely with one another as opposed to
turning on one another in our time of need.

America must never forget that immigration is the source of our strength. We are
a nation of immigrants with an eternal debt of justice to pay with regard to
immigration. It is a tortuous logic for the dominant power class in this
country to forget that we were established as a nation when people immigrated
here from Europe, and displaced the Native Americans, destroying their jobs,
homes, food supply, and culture. Those new Americans used and profited from
forced immigration, as millions of African slaves were brought here to build
our cities, plant and harvest our crops, and become the backbone of our
modern-day economic power.

So the descendants of those who immigrated to this land and shattered resources
and hope for others, and who benefited from forced immigration of Africans for
over 100 years, should have only one response when asked what to do about our
immigrant sisters and brothers, and it should be in the form of a question:
''How do we pay the debt of justice we owe?"

We acknowledge that immigration will always be a challenge, as long as our
neighbors to the south of us, and families throughout our world, have a
substandard of living in a global economy of wealth and opportunity. As
Americans we have a responsibility to use our wealth not only to fatten the
calves that we eat, but to ensure that our neighbors in this hemisphere and
beyond eat in their homes at their family tables as well as we do here in
America. This must be our ongoing commitment.

As we think about immigration today, we are reminded of the Word of God, from
Leviticus: ''Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead,
treat them as well as you treat citizens and love them as much as you love
yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners in [a strange land] the land
of Egypt. [Thus says] the Lord your God."

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