San Diego Tribune
By Kate Morrissey
August 28, 2018
On the 55th anniversary of his father’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Martin Luther King III criticized the Trump administration’s decision to separate multitudes of families at the border and demanded immigration policies that protect basic human dignity.
The way the Trump administration has carried out immigration enforcement both inside the U.S. and at the border runs counter to the values and principles laid out by the elder King in his famous speech at the March on Washington in 1963, the younger King said as he stood yards from the fencing that separates San Diego and Tijuana.
“There is a sense of crisis in the United States and around the globe that my father warned would come if we did not find a way to live together as a common humanity,” King said. “We are experiencing a climate of incivility, lack of empathy and outright denial of human dignity that is arguably unprecedented in recent times.”
King decided to commemorate his father’s famous speech by traveling to the southwest border after learning about migrant children who had recently been separated from their parents by the federal government. He said he chose San Diego based on its engaged local community organizations and because the border here has significant numbers of people crossing.
King’s backdrop of Friendship Park was the same location where a migrant caravan that drew the ire of President Donald Trump demonstrated in April to call for protections of asylum seekers’ rights. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the same stretch of border soon after as a stage for announcing the zero-tolerance policy that would lead to mass separations of migrant families.
Trump has made border security one of his top priorities and has sought funding for a barrier along segments of the nearly 2,000-mile border that the United States shares with Mexico. He continues to oppose the diversity lottery visa, which randomly awards visas to tens of thousands of people from underrepresented countries and he has criticized what he calls “chain migration” that he said enables legal immigrants to sponsor relatives for U.S. visas. In June, he reversed course on a policy that resulted in immigrant family separations at the border, signing an executive order that would keep families together.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, King called for all immigrants and refugees to be treated with dignity and respect.
Fifty-five years ago, King’s father emphasized that the “unalienable rights” that were promised at the founding of the U.S. belong to everyone.
“This includes not just ourselves, but our neighbors and the stranger at our door,” the younger King said Tuesday.
He criticized the way the Trump administration had left unauthorized immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in limbo when it ended the program last year without a solution from Congress. King said DACA recipients should have a pathway to citizenship. He also condemned policies separating any child from his or her parents.
“When I first heard of the caging of children, I was stunned, I was appalled, I was shaken to my core,” King said. “A great democracy does not bully the most vulnerable among us.”
He praised “people of conscience” who have protested such policies and called on Americans to vote out politicians who support those policies in November’s election.
“If we want to fulfill my father’s dream, we’ve got to invigorate our democracy with a fresh passion for constructive social change,” King said. “We must become active civic agents of change.”
At the end of King’s speech, he introduced his 10-year-old daughter Yolanda Renee.
“Dreamers must stick together,” she said.
Switching to Spanish, she delivered some of the most famous lines of her grandfather’s speech:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
One woman yelled, “Yolanda for president!”
Trump also commemorated the famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Tuesday.
“More than half a century after his speech, our nation reaffirms our commitment to protecting the promise of America for all our people,” Trump said in a statement. “For this reason, my administration is continuing to create an environment where the American Dream — and its many opportunities — are available for all hardworking Americans. As a result, for example, we have already seen the unemployment rate for African Americans reach a record low.”
Douglas Moore Jr., executive director of the United Domestic Workers union in San Diego, said King’s father’s words are often looked at as part of history, but he believes that the King dream is more relevant than ever and should guide the U.S. on immigration.
Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, welcomed the younger King to the border, saying he was the “right person in the right place at the right time” to address how people are treated by the U.S. immigration system.
Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee U.S./Mexico Border Program, said King’s visit was important and carried on the legacy of his father.
“It expands the notion that those who live along the border and those crossing the border are deserving of civil rights protections,” Rios said.
Irving Hernandez, a 23-year-old DACA recipient, said King’s speech captured what the battle has been for him, pushing for protections both for DACA recipients as well as other groups in the immigrant community.
“Truly the fight for equality takes time,” Hernandez said.
King’s speech opened with a procession up from the beach to the mesa at Friendship Park in the southwestern-most part of San Diego. A group of fifth graders from Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School sang “One Day” as King approached.
After his speech, King went between the fences with his family to talk to people on the Mexican side of the barrier. They told him about meeting with relatives at the Friendship Park fence on weekends to touch pinkie fingers briefly between the steel mesh.
“We can do better than what we’re doing,” King said. “We’re operating at a low level right now.”
He met a Haitian immigrant who had traveled up from Brazil through deadly jungles in Central America before settling in Tijuana. He found that story of what migrants go through particularly compelling, he said.
He also met a deported U.S. military veteran.
“How do you mistreat the people who stood up to protect this country?” King said. “It’s almost insane.”
King said he’s grateful to his parents for showing him a path to human rights work and also thankful that his mother didn’t make him feel like he had to be another version of his father.
“Nothing comes easy, particularly when following in footsteps so gigantic,” King said.
He hopes to be a catalyst for change in his own way.
King was scheduled to meet with San Diego community members through the United Domestic Workers union later in the afternoon.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com