Letter: MLK Day and immigration | AspenTimes.com

Letter: MLK Day and immigration

MLK Day and immigration

Martin Luther King Day. The day kids don’t go to school, banks aren’t open, and a day of remembrance of all the hardships that African Americans had to go through to gain their freedom in a country that boasts how free their people are. On MLK Day, I took the time to read through the “I Have A Dream” speech and reflect on what it means to be a first-generation American from Hispanic immigrant descent.

Some of my family came to the States in the late ‘80s fleeing poverty and persecution in El Salvador. Both my mom and dad have told me stories of growing up in a home made from mud and sticks because they couldn’t afford anything else. I’ve been to El Salvador and seen those very homes myself.

They have told me of times when they barely had enough food to feed their families of up to 12, having to split tortillas in half, maybe even fourths, to make ends meet. I’ve heard of stories of people being left for dead on the streets because gang members had a feud with them. I have feared for my own life and even cut off my vacation in El Salvador early because of that fear. I can see why my families, and millions of other families, have chosen to immigrate to the United States.

Immigration, like the African-American Civil Rights movement was in the 1960s, is a topic that is constantly brought up in political debates and civil rights movements as of late. We have come to a point in history where what the law states as being correct people are starting to see as wrong, or unethical. Is it OK for people to come to the U.S. seeking refuge from drugs, violence and corrupt governments? Absolutely, as long as they come in to the country through legal means.

But what happens to those people who are being persecuted on a daily basis and don’t have the education, financial means, or time to apply for a visa to travel to the U.S.? What happens to those who are already in the country and are considered “illegal?” (The proper term is “undocumented,” by the way)

What happens to those who have committed no other crime other than being in a country they don’t “belong” in?

What happens to the wives of husbands who have been deported and can’t aren’t allowed back in the country?

What happens to the children of those who have been deported back to their country of origin?

There are many questions yet to be answered about immigration. Questions that if left unanswered will only build up until we reach a tipping point. That tipping point isn’t too far in the future, with many political candidates seeing that the Latino vote will play a key role in future elections. Just like the civil rights and women’s rights movements, immigration is a topic that isn’t going anywhere but forward. MLK Jr. Day is a reminder of how far we have come and how much more we have yet to do in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Tony Mendez

Student, Colorado Mountain College