Black Leaders at March for Jobs Invoke Civil Rights Struggle and the 1963 March Led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Jerry Kammer on July 16, 2013

One of the least covered stories involving illegal immigration to the United States is its effect on American workers. As the March for Jobs made clear Monday, young blacks have been especially affected by job displacement as employers have hired millions of illegal immigrants. Those who addressed the problem included members of Congress and other immigration activists. But the most poignant and powerful voices were those of black leaders. Here is a look at some of their comments.

Charles Butler, radio host and member of the Black American Leadership Alliance, noted that next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was there that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. The 1963 march, taking place on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, was a powerful appeal to the nation's conscience that helped produce landmark civil rights legislation the following year.

Said Butler, "I find it so ironic 50 years later that I'm standing here, speaking at this event, a march for jobs again. … The statistics are that by 2040 foreign-born workers will outnumber native-born workers. … Native-born workers have been demolished — in terms of getting jobs — by foreign workers … . Whose country is this at the end of the day? So when we say we want to take our country back, people say we're racist, we're this, we're that. But we're really not."

Frank Morris, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and member of the Center for Immigration Studies Board, decried the "devaluation of American citizenship and the racism of American immigration policy". Morris refuted the claim that the fight for comprehensive immigration reform is a civil rights struggle. "As an African American and a veteran of civil rights, this really gets my dander up, because this analogy is false for the most obvious reasons," said Morris. He said the civil rights struggle in the United States involved American citizens fighting against unconstitutional laws "often at personal risk of life." Then he asked, "This is considered as equivalent to non-citizens going into another country, demanding rights they do not have, and demanding that laws that were supposed to protect American citizens not be enforced? You say that's equal?" Morris said the racism of U.S. immigration policy lies in the fact that "non-citizens, who have violated and benefited from the violation of our laws, are having a new bill that Congress is proposing for them, that gives them more benefits, while our own citizens are tragically suffering more."

Wayne Dupree, a conservative activist, noted the frequent calls for compassion toward illegal immigrants. Said Dupree, "We're not asking for a mass deportation. We're asking for our respect. Respect our citizens. … Where is the compassion for American citizens? ... I ask the House of Representatives to use common sense on this problem and respect us first. Do not repeat the mistakes of 1986. Be smart this time. Protect us first, and vote down this bill. Protect us first! Protect jobs for all American citizens!

Stephen Broden, Senior Pastor of Fair Park Bible Fellowship in Dallas, said, "In an attempt to fix a real problem with immigration in America, our leaders have neglected their first obligation: to protect the interests of all Americans. Our leadership has an obligation, a duty, to secure our liberties as citizens of this great land. And our liberties are inextricably tied to our ability to provide for ourselves and for our families. This amnesty bill does not consider the cold, hard reality of unemployment among blacks and low-skilled Americans in today's economy."