03/12/2012 07:33 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

African Americans and Latinos Unite in Alabama to Fight for Immigrant Rights

 By Refugio Mata

"We're not going to allow them to treat people like slaves," Linda Dent of Los Angeles told Univision before leaving for Selma, Alabama. "Those days are over. We fought very hard to have the freedom we have today to vote."

Dent alluded to her days growing up as an African American woman in the South, fighting for civil rights. She was part of about a dozen people organized by Good Jobs LA that set off to Alabama to protest against the state's anti-immigrant law HB 56. Many activists like her are alarmed to see the spirit of the civil rights movement being under attack by the newest face of discrimination: racial profiling of undocumented immigrants.

The Los Angeles delegation joined thousands of other activists from across the nation that marched through 53 miles of rolling hills from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery, echoing the footsteps of the "Bloody Sunday" marches of March 7, 1965. L.A. residents included African American and Latino mothers, grandmothers, and college students eager to defend the lessons of the civil rights movement as we continue the fight for racial, immigrant, and worker justice. Regressive anti-immigrant policies are increasingly rearing their ugly heads across the U.S. in large part due to the work of far right-wing lobbying group ALEC to advance racial profiling.

Our core values of fairness and equality that legendary leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated for are increasingly being under attack, threatening to drag us back in time. In 1965, the South was divided. The privileged wanted to deny human and civil rights to African Americans. Today, 47 years later, several states have launched a coordinated assault on workers' rights, minority rights, public education, and hardworking immigrant families.

"It's unacceptable and we will not stand for it," Dent asserted to the media. Her biggest concern being shutting the door of educational opportunities on undocumented youth. "Undocumented immigrant families contribute so much to our local communities. Why should they be denied the right to better themselves and improve our community?"

Linda is not alone in posing that question in the African American community. Recently, activist Angela Davis spoke out in support of the DREAM Act using it as an example of how immigrant rights are the newest iteration of the fight for civil rights. Yes, history is repeating itself in terms of discrimination, but thankfully, it's also repeating itself in terms of people coming together to stand up for what's right: equality. 

Refugio Mata is a Public Relations specialist and founder of Project Economic Refugee. He graduated from CSU Northridge and has been an organizer for immigrant rights, economic and environmental justice issues ever since.