Let Freedom Ring for the Undocumented
By Enrique Morones (with respect to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
One of my great heroes is Martin Luther King, I have taken his famous speech of 50 years ago and made it my dream speech, giving MLK full credit.
Five years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, was elected President of the United States. This momentous event came as a great beacon light of HOPE TO MILLIONS of undocumented who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their living in the shadows.
But 2000 days later, the undocumented are not free. 2000 days later the life of the undocumented is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 2000 days later, the undocumented lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 2000 days later, the undocumented is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes BROWN men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her people of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the DREAMERS a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of NOW. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promise of HUMANE IMMIGRATION REFORM. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlight path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make DREAMERS dreams a reality to all God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the DREAMERS discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 2013 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the DREAMERS needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the undocumented are documented. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for “Documentation” by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the MIGRANT community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. WE CANNOT MARCH ALONE.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we will always MARCH ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights. “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the DREAMER is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of DEPORTATIONS. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies die in the desert on the US/Mexican border. We can never be satisfied as our families are torn apart. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their DREAMS and robbed of their dignity by signs saying “documented only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a MIGRANT in Arizona cannot be free and a MIGRANT in Alabama has no possibility of getting documents. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have fresh from detention facilities. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of law enforcement brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Arizona, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Mississippi, go back to the “Barrios” of all our cities, that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a DREAM. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day in the red farm fields of California the sons of former farm workers and the sons of former farm owners will be able to sit down together, at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that even in the state of Alabama, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis and justice.
I have a dream that DREAMERS will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their documentation but by the content of their character.
I (also) have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Arizona, with its vicious racists, with its governor having her lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification: one day right there in Arizona, little brown boys and brown girls will be able to join hands with white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I (also) have a dream today.
I have a dream that every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain. And the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to my people with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountains of despair a stone of HOPE. With this FAITH we will be able to transform the jangling discord of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be DOCUMENTED one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “my country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the BRACEROS pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the farm fields of Imperial Valley, to the mighty farmlands of New York. Let freedom ring for Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped mountains of Colorado!
Let freedom ring killing fields of the US/Mexico border!
But not only that: let freedom ring for Marcelo Lucero in Long Island New York!
Let freedom ring for Lucresia Dominguez in Arizona, for Marco Antonio Villa-Señor in Texas, for Bricienda Flores in Arizona.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, brown men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Enrique Morones is an immigrant rights activist and the president and founder of Border Angels, a non-profit organization that consists of extraordinary volunteers who want to stop the unnecessary deaths of individuals traveling north from Mexico through the desert into the US.