This week marks the 81st birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His heroic struggle for civil rights, a battle for which he paid with his life, is an inspiration to all Americans. While there has been progress since the 60s, there remains much work to be done.
Last week, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, speaking at the first naturalization ceremony timed to honor the slain civil rights leader, reminded the nation that the legacy of Dr. King and the civil rights movement of the 60s is America’s promise of a dream to all who are able to come here. “When we greet new citizens into the United States we speak of the open opportunities that our country presents to everyone around the world who qualifies for the benefits our agency administers…Martin Luther King helped define those hopes and opportunities for everyone.”
I applaud Director Mayorkas for his words and for honoring Dr. King’s memory with citizenship ceremonies around the country. But it is also important to remember those who cannot get here or who are here but cannot enjoy America’s promise—the victims of persecution and torture who seek refuge in America but have been refused admission; the business entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and others who long to contribute to America’s economy, social fabric, and culture but are subject to a bureaucratic “culture of no” as well as absurd visa quotas and interminable backlogs; the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who dream of reuniting with their loved ones and have played by the rules only to find themselves at the wrong end of a broken immigration system. And, of course, we must hold in our hearts all those who are in the U.S., but are detained or live in fear of arrest, deportation, and separation from their families because America offers them no pathway to citizenship.