Some images are so powerful that we can almost categorize them as sacred. By casually invoking these images we can trivialize, even desecrate, them to a point where they lose their unique and important standing in our collective memories.
Evil persists, but Jews are right to object passionately when false analogies are drawn to the Holocaust. Likewise, racial injustice is still perpetrated in our country, but black Americans are justifiably protective of the images of our own struggle for civil rights, which took place in the 1950s and 1960s. That is why most black Americans who understand, or who witnessed, the circumstances of that struggle are offended by the attempt to co-opt the imagery of that era by those, including some prominent black leaders, who have taken up the cause of illegal aliens.
The advocates for illegal aliens claim they are “re-enacting” one of the most iconic events of that era — the march from Selma to Montgomery. During that march, hundreds of courageous men and women braved menacing threats and withstood attacks from police and local mobs in order to demand basic rights that had been denied them for hundreds of years, solely because they happened to be black.
By contrast, the media stunt being staged by advocates for illegal aliens has nothing whatsoever in common with the noble fight waged by those who made the trek in 1965. The aim of those participating in the Selma to Montgomery march of 2012 is the repeal of HB 56, Alabama’s new law designed to discourage illegal aliens from settling or remaining in the state. The law does not affect people based on their race or ethnicity, but rather based on their actions — namely their conscious decision to violate U.S. immigration laws.
Unlike laws that existed in 1965, which were designed to oppress black Americans, our immigration laws exist for the legitimate purpose of protecting the most fundamental interests of all Americans. America, like every nation on Earth, limits immigration because the decision of a person from another country to settle in Alabama can and often does have a profound effect on the lives of Americans. The presence of large numbers of illegal aliens prevents many Americans from finding jobs or commanding decent wages. It affects how limited public resources are spent on schools, health care and other services that are vital to them.
For a long time the federal government has neglected to enforce most immigration laws and, in doing so, has failed to protect these interests. The current administration affirmatively refuses to enforce immigration laws, except in extenuating circumstances. As such, Alabama was fully justified in passing and implementing HB 56.
Despite howls of protest from self-anointed “civil rights groups,” these groups have yet to produce a shred of evidence that the law has resulted in unlawful discrimination against anyone. Nor was the issue of discrimination or racial profiling even raised by the U.S. Department of Justice in the lawsuit it filed against Alabama last year.
What is fact, however, is that since implementation of HB 56 began, Alabama’s unemployment rate has fallen at more than double the rate of the nation as a whole — from 9.8 percent in September to 8.1 percent in December. While illegal aliens are taking the cue and departing Alabama, thousands of unemployed Alabamians are eagerly filling the jobs the illegal workers vacated.
Another fact that seems to be lost on those seeking to invoke the images of the 1965 civil rights march is that black Alabamians, who are disproportionally represented on the unemployment rolls, are likely to be significant beneficiaries of HB 56 as employers seek to replace illegal workers. The evidence that legal residents of Alabama, of all races and ethnicities, are getting back to work also undermines absurd claims that the departure of illegal aliens is harmful to the state’s economy.
About the only similarity between the march of 1965 and the one taking place this month is that participants will walk the same 54 miles from Selma to the state capital. They will encounter no snarling mobs, no Bull Connor and no abridgement of their rights. Thankfully, Alabama is not the same state it was 47 years ago. All the marchers are likely to accomplish is to trivialize the evil of those times and the courage of those who fought it.
Dr. Frank L. Morris Sr. is a member of the board of directors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He previously held the position of executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Dr. Morris also served as dean of graduate studies at Morgan State University in Maryland, and most recently as a visiting professor in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from MIT.