Dear Mr. President,

This week, as many marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I wondered silently what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have said about the wrangling over the passage of the immigration reform bill if he were alive today.

I’m pretty sure that King, even though his “I Have a Dream” speech had nothing to do with immigration at the time, undoubtedly meant immigrants as well when he stated: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

And again: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

Sadly, I was absolutely disappointed that on such a historic day, you failed to seize the moment to make a case for the civil rights issues of 2013, including immigration reform. I thought it was the perfect moment to remind Republicans—to quote Clarissa Martinez de Castro, the director of immigration policy for Hispanic civil rights organization National Council of La Raza—“about the value of a person,” including the 11 million undocumented.

It was the perfect time to call out the racists who are stirring up hate today using immigrants and immigration reform as scapegoats. It was the moment to call out the racists in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the South as King did, where the new most-hated are now immigrants.

I thought somehow your own dream would have come across for many today, including the immigrants, and you would have used Wednesday, Aug. 28 to shame those holding up immigration reform to let freedom ring for all who need to be free from the shadows they are stifling under. Instead, you stuck to a script I had heard many times before—devoid of a plan, devoid of a proposal and devoid of real fire.

But I take heart in King’s words of encouragement: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.” Immigrant advocates, immigrants and those like Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of Arizona, who are trying to make sense of the madness going on among some new KKK types in their party should take heart in these words and let the battle for immigration reform wage on. And hopefully, Mr. President, you will also make up for the lost moment of Aug. 28 with a call to action as the Congress gets back to work this September.

The clock is ticking!


Felicia Persaud

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.