On MLK and Immigration: WWMLKD?

We are reminded every year on the same day (January 19th) that our nation’s history has been turbulent sometimes when it came to racial minorities. As attorneys, we get reminded every day that the struggle for civil rights is never over. If we lived in a perfect system, we would not need lawyers. But there so many people like Martin Luther King that have worked so hard to change our country, and they live in infamy until the end of history. However, in the midst of the immigration debate, we are reminded that some of our fellow humans still suffer in the United States. I think we should ask ourselves what would Martin Luther King Do (WWMLKD), when it comes to immigration, if he were alive today?

Take for example the detention centers that Customs and Border Protection is using to house undocumented immigrants crossing our borders. I have commented on this problem in an earlier post. I argued then that most of these immigrants have legitimate asylum claims, as reported by the United Nations. These immigrants have been compared to so many things, most of which would make a nun blush. They are housed in cramped detention centers and they are prohibited from having basic human needs. Some would say that they are undocumented and they deserve what they are getting. However, under our international obligations, we are supposed to be protecting them and protecting their basic human rights. I believe that if MLK were alive today, he would be ashamed of the way we are treating our fellow human beings.

Another issue that would make MLK cringe, is the fact that ICE officers have unfettered access to undocumented immigrants and suppressing evidence in removal proceedings is next to impossible.  Usually, when law enforcement tries to enter your home, they need to procure a warrant, which is not usually the case when it comes to removal proceedings. These proceedings have been deemed to be civil in nature and traditional evidence rules do not apply. I once represented an undocumented Muslim immigrant who was forced to to change his clothes in front of a female officer in contradiction to his beliefs. What made this worse is the fact that ICE officers entered to his apartment early in the morning, looking for someone who has not lived there for more than a decade. The government did not even want to produce the officer to testify regarding the raid. I was successful in terminating the proceedings, but these situations happen every day, and immigrants are removed from the United States based on shaky evidence. We need a revision of evidence rules that these proceedings become a beacon of fairness, especially when removal could spell death in some instances.

Lastly, we have a system that discriminates against immigrants when it comes to driver’s licenses. The Real ID Act has allowed the stated unrestricted discretion in drafting rules that discriminate even against legal immigrants. These schemes are unconstitutional and violate the federal power to regulate immigration. I know that MLK would not stand for these rules.

I know that MLK would push for immigration reform if he were alive today. It is time to reform our immigration laws to make them more humane. It is after all what Martin Luther King would do. What do you think?