Friend Dan Lourie has been working on immigration reform and was invited to speak last week at an event in Bozeman Montana.
His talk, which he shared with us, follows. Thanks for your good work, Dan.
IMMIGRATION RALLY – BOZEMAN 5/30/13
I’ve borrowed my first three words from Eleanor Roosevelt, addressing a convention of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“My fellow immigrants.”
I’ve had a fair amount of political experience in Texas over the last fifty years – Houston, where I cut my teeth in the sixties and seventies in civil rights, civil liberties, and anti-war advocacy and actions, and later in the Corpus Christi area of South Texas. Both areas are diverse – Houston had a substantial African-American population, and Nueces County has a significant percentage of Mexican-Americans.
A lesson I learned while in Corpus about the history of the Hispanic population made a huge impression on me. I worked with an attorney, Hispanic, successful, an enthusiastic if overburdened advocate for the poor and wrongly accused. I naively pictured him perhaps thirty years earlier, swimming across the Rio Grande, evading arrest, struggling as he grew up to stay in school and to excel despite poverty and discrimination, eventually getting a law degree, now an example of the potential for productive citizenship after his harrowing journey.
But when I got around to asking him about that history, his response was a big step in my own education. “Actually,” he told me, “I’m a third generation American citizen. My grandfather immigrated and fought for the U.S. in the Pacific in the second world War, my father fought in Viet Nam and I served in Iraq, all proud to serve our country.”
This was the revelation which fuels my ardor for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, for an immigration system that respects human rights and the dignity of all families. It reminded me that we are, at some point, indeed all immigrants, and have the potential through hard work, pursuit of education, involvement in civic duties, and unflagging concern for our fellow human beings, to become productive and proud citizens of this country.
I am an immigrant myself. Mine is a different story and I had an easier path than many. After fleeing the Nazi invasion of my birthplace, we were fortunate to already have family in the U.S. who smoothed our journey. Our goals, however, were the same as those of most immigrants: to be productive citizens of our adopted nation, to raise our families to be safe and secure, to become educated and useful in pursuit of the common good. My father served three years in the US Army during the second World War, and later, I also served.
It is not only immoral to oppose equitable and just immigration laws, it is counter productive for the nation. We continue a dysfunctional immigration system at the expense of our conscience, at the grief our brutality causes separated families, and at the loss of the great benefit we would gain of hard working future citizens. If we don’t act now, we will institutionalize a second class – making them a slave class – that serves only corporate purposes and profits, not average Americans.
Do we really want to forfeit the gifts offered by our immigrating brothers and sisters, their energy, their intellect and their goodness? That becomes not only our loss, but our shame.
Now is the time, Dr. King told us, to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time, he said, to open the doors of opportunity to all…children.