Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 4
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
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King’s Dream Seen as Key to Immigration

Matthew Hersh

Approaching the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a commemoration Monday honoring his legacy sought to link the civil rights leader’s dream of equal opportunity to the hotly debated topic of immigration.

The annual event at Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium featured Los Angeles city councilman José Huizar, the first Latino immigrant to serve on the city’s governing body. Mr. Huizar, in calling for immigration reform, also urged educational reform so public schooling can offer quality education to a wider demographic.

The immigration issue “involves the same arguments once heard about African Americans,” Mr. Huizar said to a capacity crowd assembled there to also honor the winners of the University’s annual award presentation to essay, poster, and video contest winners in grades 4 through 12 from area schools.

“There’s one consistent message out there about immigration: our national immigration policy needs to be reformed, and unfortunately, many politicians have chosen to approach the issue of immigration in a divisive manner.” Mr. Huizar, a native of Zacatecas, Mexico, described as partisan discussions over building a border fence, or implementing national identification and setting guest worker programs, and pointed to Dr. King’s work in civil rights as providing a potential solution.

“If you look at where each struggle has been, and where each struggle is going, it is clear they both travel on the same road and both seek to expand the dignity of human rights and both are motivated with the desire for equal opportunity,” said Mr. Huizar, who completed a master’s in public affairs and urban and regional planning at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School in 1994.

The immigrants’ rights marches held in California in the last several years, Mr. Huizar said, were directly modeled on the rallies held in the height of the Civil Rights Era. Mr. Huizar compared an incident at an immigration rally in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park last year to police intervention during rallies in the 1960s: “The police chief said police fired 240 non-lethal rounds to clear the park. In my mind, this brought back those stark black and white television images of the 60s that we’ve all seen — images of African American protestors being hosed down while trapped in a corner, and German shepherds attacking defenseless citizens.

“I believe both the Civil Rights and Immigration Rights movements embrace the desire Dr. King expressed 40 years ago in his final speech,” Mr. Huizar said, recounting the Memphis speech where Dr. King spoke of reaching the “promised land.

“For immigrants,” Mr. Huizar said, “that’s the American dream.”


Mr. Huizar’s keynote address was preceded by a performance by the CASYM Steel Orchestra, which is a non-profit group that provides academic, recreational, and social and cultural activities in various neighborhoods throughout New York City. It was CASYM’s fifth performance at the University’s King celebration.

The University also issued its Journey Award for Special Achievement to Senior Anna Almore, who has been involved in expanding access to higher education for students from poorer backgrounds. The Journey Award for Lifetime Service was given to Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions at the Wilson School John Templeton for “commitment to increasing access to education for historically underrepresented groups.”

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