THE BLOG
01/23/2013 12:05 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2013

Should Florida Leaders Follow Martin Luther King or Continue to Deny the American Dream?

One day a leader will approach his people, and he will tell some they should take their inheritance because when he was hungry, they gave him food to eat; when he was thristy, they gave him water to drink; and when he was a stranger, they invited him to be with them.

Though in this pluralistic and diverse society, not all will recognize, let alone believe in the book of Matthew, still most of us would agree on the value of brotherhood. Indeed, this past weekend thousands will have in honor the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King participated in the national day of service. This iconic civil rights champion also asked us to care for our fellow brothers and sisters.

Indeed, from a jail cell, in a noble fashion he responded to his critics by brilliantly and prophetically reminding us of our destiny. When asked why he acted for others, he wrote:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

Sadly, Florida leaders have tried to label those that are the most vulnerable in our society as unworthy outsiders. Florida leaders have followed a tactic of damning our young, Last year, Florida's efforts to effectively deny U.S. citizens the right to education was held unconstitutional by a wise federal judge in South Florida. In Ruiz v. Robinson, Florida's effort to deny citizens the right to claim residency merely because their parents were undocumented was held to be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. As a constitutional and immigration scholar, a year earlier in op-eds, much like this one, and with individual pleas, I begged that Florida leaders to overturn their unwise, costly, and unconsitutional efforts,. Yet, it took a federal court order for them to follow what most law students could have concluded.

Sadly, they may very well be at it again. It appears that the state's Board of Governors is on the verge of declaring that beneficiaries of federal deferred action, individuals known as DREAMers, are not eligible to claim residency no matter how long they have lived in this state. In President's Obama wise decision last summer to provide a protected status to these youth, a decision support by roughly 70 percent of Americans, our President noted:

These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents -- sometimes even as infants -- and often have no idea that they're undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver's license, or a college scholarship.

Given the value of education, our cherished goal of prosperity, and the aspiration of the American Dream, why deny this opportunity to those innocents that have done no wrong? What is even more troubling, which will unfortunately likely have to be resolved in a court of law, is that governing documents, including the Board of Governors' own documents allow for non-citizens to be able to claim residency. Their guidelines specifically allow for beneficiaries of deferred action to claim residency, and their own regulations allow for immigration parolees, a status analogous to deferred action recipients, to claim residency. Let's change our current path before ordered to do so, and let us of give these young success stories the opportunity to live the American Dream.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been updated since its original publication.