What Martin Luther King Jr. would say about today’s immigration crisis and the proposed wall? Not so fast, Jim Harrington. Your assumption that King would be against the wall, and thus not against illegal immigration, cannot pass scrutiny. Clarence B. Jones, King’s former attorney and close advisor, in his 2008 book, “What Would Martin Say?” probably has the closest insights as to how King might’ve felt about illegal immigration.
King had been a big supporter of Cesar Chavez, the farmworkers organizer and who I believe was one of the earliest campaigners against open borders. Reverend Ralph Abernathy, King’s replacement at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, marched with Chavez protesting illegal immigration and its suppressive effects on wages. Jones speculates that King would’ve attacked open borders, which allows untold numbers of illegal immigrants to flood across and take jobs done by Americans.
Jones imagines that King would’ve told groups like La Raza, “I find it offensive and insulting when you wave your Mexican flags … and compare yourself to civil rights demonstrators — black American citizens — who were denied their inalienable rights … entirely because of their skin color.”
Jones imagines that King would likely think that today’s real injustice is that the practical application of our immigration laws “favors those who have managed so far to evade arrest.” He believes that King would have criticized black leadership for supporting policies like sanctuary cities with this: “Before you make it easier for the unfortunate of other counties to come here, consider the cost of your actions on the less fortunate of the country whose constitution you’ve sworn to uphold.”
He would’ve recognized and cared about the effects that illegal immigration has had on black unemployment. If alive today, Jones believes that King would almost be entirely alone in that.
Joel Ramirez, Edinburg