We Are All Immigrants

Speech by Mark Schmidt on Cedar Rapids Rally calling for Immigration Reform in front of Senator Grasley’s office on May-14-2018

My great-great-grandfather came to America as a stowaway in a cattle ship in the late 19th century. He came because of prospect of work. He came because he was fleeing the violence of war and poverty. He came for the American dream.
My ancestors were simply hardworking, God-fearing, families trying to survive, caring for their loved ones and communities. Their story is almost identical to the story of today’s immigrants; here for a prospect of a better future. But because of fear and xenophobia our human dignity was denied much like it is denied to immigrants today. During the anti-German fervor of WWI period, German nationals were required to register at a local government office, to carry papers at all times, and could be stopped, detained, and interred without evidence of wrongdoing. Depicted as blood-thirsty apes threatening white womanhood and American liberty thousands were detained and, collectively, millions of dollars of their possessions and assets seized. Lives were destroyed. Families were torn apart.
But my ancestors, like millions of other immigrants, persevered and have helped to make America what it is today.
Senator Ernst has acknowledged that our state economy needs migrants to fill job openings that our aging population cannot. Our state and our nation benefit greatly from the gifts of migrants, both documented and undocumented.
We are here to ask our senators and all elected officials to recognize the failings of our current laws, to help them see how our current laws harm the dignity of the human person, how they are an assault on the common good and we ask them to change them based on the virtues and principles of love, justice, mercy, human dignity, prosperity for all by caring for the common good and not just the good of some, and a spirit of radical hospitality.
First and foremost, we are here today to support immigrants and their families because of their humanity; because of our humanity. We must speak about immigration and immigrants, not as statistics, not as a monolithic group, not as “chains” or “illegals”, but as human persons created in the image of God. We must witness this truth to all we meet, including to our elected officials and those running for office.
Immigrants are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. Immigrants have dreams, hopes, fears, triumphs and tragedies just like everyone else.
Dr. King reminds us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Injustice in our immigration laws and their enforcement threatens the rule of law. If the dignity of migrants and refugees can be denigrated by our immigration system then justice in our nation is itself under threat. We have to look no further than the fact that American citizens have been detained and even deported by our immigration enforcement machine.
Because of this we call on them to pass just comprehensive immigration reform that
1. Recognizes the right to emigrate and the corresponding right to immigrate
2. Creates more legal paths to immigrate to our nation, including for manual laborers and not just STEM and other professional jobs
3. Retains current family reunification laws, allowing migrants and citizens to sponsor more than just the so-called “nuclear family” and ends the years-long backlog to reunite families sooner
4. Ends the raids
5. Ensure due process of migrants caught up in enforcement actions
6. Ends the internment of migrants for administrative violations, especially the immigrants from the Mt. Pleasant raid
7. Normalizes the status of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, especially Dreamers and offers a path to citizenship
8. Border security that keeps human dignity and the common good as its foundation
9. Addresses the push factors that drive people to migrate in the first place.