Jobs and Justice

January 19, 2015

Created August 28, 1963.  U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Today, as the federal government commemorates the legacy of  one of the  transformative figures in 20th century public  life, it should not be forgotten that Martin Luther King struggled not only to achieve racial equality but also economic opportunity for disenfranchised citizens. One of the most dispiriting developments in the over four decades since Dr. King’s assassination has been the regression in labor force participation within this nation.  Although the unemployment rate among Black workers might seem particularly distressing, the truth is that there are large swathes of what should constitute the American workforce, encompassing every ethnicity and race, which are facing chronic, unrelenting joblessness. 

Although not the source of this nation’s lackluster economy, one of the contributing factors to prolonged unemployment among large numbers of Americans-particularly those who already face extreme hardships in finding gainful employment-is our government’s policy of sustained mass immigration, as well its tacit endorsement of employers who disregard federal and state immigration laws. While it would be presumptuous of me to claim insight into how Martin Luther King Jr. would view the current immigration debate-such as it is-it’s worth noting that as recently as 1991 his widow lobbied against congressional legislation that would have further hobbled American laborers.

So the notion that he would at least have expressed ambivalence over the political class’s exclusive catering to the interests of the Chamber of Commerce and Mark Zuckerberg, while ignoring the suffering of millions of economically and emotionally struggling Americans, is not that far-fetched. Neither is the condemnation of a President who has abandoned the community which made his election possible in favor of more promising constituencies. Is it too much to ask of a president who repeatedly and capriciously invokes the legacy of Martin Luther King to give some consideration to the misery his administration’s immigration policies have imposed upon the men and women whose futures King fought so valiantly for?




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