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Human Dignity at the Heart of Immigration Reform

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The government may have "shutdown" on Tuesday morning, but the fight for immigration reform still burns brightly and must remain at the center of the national discourse. On Oct. 5, the fight will be brought to the doorstep of Congress and all throughout the nation with the "March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect." The movement will span over 140 cities and towns throughout the country, as thousands of people join their voices to call out Congress on this pressing issue.

The name of the march is not the "March for Immigration Reform" and for good reason. Thanks to the mainstream media and hypocritical politicians, the phrase "immigration reform" has become so politicized, so polarizing that the term itself distracts from what is truly at stake. The reason I and millions of Americans are up in arms about this issue is not because of blind political ideology or quixotic utopian idealism. What we care about and what is truly at stake is the dignity of millions of human beings documented and undocumented.

Every day, millions of families are torn apart by draconian deportation practices. Husbands and wives who came to this country to build a better life for their family are violently cleaved apart and forced to never see their loved ones again. Perhaps worst of all, young immigrants who were brought here as children and lived their entire lives with the solace of a better future in their hearts, are met with an abrupt slap in the face as they are told they can no longer continue their education because they don't have the proper paperwork. For example children of recruited professionals from the Caribbean, Africa, and South America "age out" and become undocumented.

Americans insist that this is truly the promise land, where anything is possible. And yet, when people abroad believe them and buy into the promise of opportunity, many Americans shut the door on them, tell them they are parasites, degrade them, and tear their families apart. The American Dream, the sense of endless opportunity that our politicians constantly peddle come election season, is a real hope for many immigrants who come to this country. If we want this to be more than a cruel lie, if we want to actually be what we say we are, then Congress must finally pass legislation that creates a path to citizenship, ends inhumane deportation, alleviates economic exploitation, and promotes educational success. Consider the Florida workers from Jamaica that were duped into coming here for work and treated like sharecroppers in the segregated south, never earning enough to pay the "Boss." They are workers that are constantly threatened with deportation if they speak up for their dignity and respect.

Ironically, immigration reform should be a conservative cause. After all, the term "family values" is now a ubiquitous conservative mantra and, as I just illustrated, what's at stake are the futures of millions of families. Republicans like Speaker John Boehner should champion this cause, but of course they don't. What they want is a perverse simulacrum of America, fully divorced from what actually made this country great -- diversity. They want America to reflect the same homogenous, white-washed image they have had imprinted in their minds since their parents told them Vanderbilt built the railroads -- with just a shimmering veneer of opportunity to rub in the faces of people abroad.

It's time for John Boehner and his Republican lackeys to stop being hypocrites and actually give substance to their family-oriented platforms by allowing a bill to go to the floor. Whatever the outcome, on Oct. 5, I and millions of true Americans will be marching not just for immigration reform, but for the protection of human dignity. Join us to find out about actions in your city click here: octoberimmigration.org.