Obama links gays and immigrants to civil rights era

politics | Mar 07, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

On the fiftieth anniversary of the march of Martin Luther King Jr. and fellow civil rights advocates in Selma, Alabama, President Barack Obama commemorated the day when he said that the march was part of a perennial quest for political transformation of the United States. "We know the march is not yet over. We know the race is not yet won," Obama said. "It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills. A conquest to determine the true meaning of America," Obama said on March 7. 
 
In a reference to the continuing controversy over the granting of amnesty to millions of illegal aliens residing in the country, Obama later made clear in an earlier interview with Joe Madison on Sirus XM: "The notion that some kid that was brought here when he was two or three years old might somehow be deported at the age of 20 or 25, even though they’ve grown up as American, that's not who we are." 
 
"That’s not true to the spirit of what the march on Selma was about."
 
The event marked the day when 600 clergy and others marched at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma in 1965 that has long been credited for spurring the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. This event was portrayed in the recent Hollywood film ‘Selma’.  
 
Through executive actions in 2014, Obama has sought to defer deportations and provide work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. Even so, a federal just halted the executive actions this month. Obama has thus been forced to freeze the programs while the appeals process continues. So far, Republicans have been unsuccessful in reversing these actions through a funding bill for Homeland Security. That bill was passed earlier this week with support from House Speaker John Boehner, despite opposition within his party. 
 
Obama said that his policy to defer deportations of those who came to the U.S. as children is consonant with the purported lessons of the 1965 Selma march to provide an “inclusive America.”
 
"When you think about the principle that was upheld that day and in subsequent days at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it was the promise of an inclusive America, it was the promise of an America where everybody was equal under the law," he said.
 
He also said that the march at Selma underscored a "basic principle [that] we treat people fairly", which includes persons who identify as homosexual. "One of the great reasons we celebrate that day of the civil rights movement, and we celebrate the march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, is that it didn't just open up the doors for black folks … it was about America and who we are," he said. "And that's a legacy we have to be proud of, but we have to understand what that spirit was about, it wasn’t just about one race, it was about who all of us are as Americans."

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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