Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bridging The Black-Immigrant Divide

Bridging The Black-Immigrant Divide by Alan Jenkins February 21, 2007

When immigrants took to the streets last year to protest a punitive anti-immigrant bill in the House of Representatives and to seek a pathway to citizenship, the public conversation focused in part on the relationship between African Americans and immigrants. And much of that conversation was framed in terms of competition and conflict. That framing was no accident. The mainstream media have fixated on potential points of black/immigrant tension, looking for
a conflict storyline. And that storyline has been amply fed by conservative anti-immigrant groups intent on driving a wedge between the two communities.

But it’s also true that proponents of progressive immigration reform and equal opportunity for African Americans have frequently talked past each other. Too often, the parallel dialogue has either been about whether immigration hurts African Americans, or whether African Americans should speak out for the rights of immigrants. As Congress and the country return their attention to immigration reform later this year, we need a new, inclusive conversation, one that asks how both communities can rise together and move the country to a better and more productive place. The new conversation must reject the forced rivalry scenario. It must start with our common values of respect for human rights, equal treatment and a shared sense of responsibility for each other. It must embrace our linked fate and interests while working through our differences. And it must focus on constructing shared solutions that benefit everyone in our country.

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