Like so many of my fellow Memphians, I was moved — and inspired anew — during last week’s events calling for justice and human dignity as we commemorated MLK50.
Unfortunately, for the new and aspiring Americans served by Latino Memphis, the road to these ideals has only grown longer and more perilous because of President Donald Trump’s immoral and unjust approach to administering the country’s immigration policies.
It was during last week’s events that we witnessed the violation of another deeply-held American ideal; freedom of the press. The arrest of Manuel Duran, one of our city’s most respected Spanish-language journalists, has drawn national attention.
It also has raised concerns about the resolve of our local government and law enforcement leaders to protect immigrants like Duran, who was doing his job alongside other journalists who were not arrested during a protest rally.
Manuel, who the government says is undocumented, is currently being held in a detention facility in Jena, La., a six-hour drive from Memphis. While we are partnering with the Southern Poverty Law Center to represent Manuel on his immigration case, we are aware of the worst possible outcome: that a man with a proven dedication to improve his adopted city could be deported.
When people are targeted because of their race or ethnicity, separated from their loved ones, and deported, it is an affront to values at the heart of the American dream like family, hard work, and faith.
Duran is not the first, the only, or the last person facing the consequences of a cruel, outdated and un-American immigration enforcement system, which has defaulted to terrorize and separate families while our economy benefits from those same people.
The words of the late Rabbi James Wax to then-Mayor Henry Loeb in 1968, sadly, resonate across the decades.
“There are laws greater than the laws of Memphis and Tennessee, and these are the laws of God,” Wax reminded the Mayor. “We fervently ask you not to hide any longer behind legal technicalities and slogans but to speak out at least in favor of human dignity.”
Today, it is Manuel Duran’s story that pricks our conscience and reminds us of the urgent truth of Dr. King’s famous words: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
A few months ago, it was the 20 workers at a distribution center in Hickory Hill. Last July it involved raids around our city where people who had broken no laws could be seen in videos cowering in their cars, surrounded by ICE and local officers pointing guns at them.
As thousands of young DREAMers and DACA recipients remain uncertain of their fates, we are grateful to those fellow Memphians who are honoring Dr. King’s legacy by taking actions and making their voices heard.
To those who are supporting us, we thank you. To those who have not yet taken steps to help your fellow Memphians, I invite you to join us on the right side of this pivotal moment in American history.
These words of Dr. King are true now, more than ever: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
(Author Mauricio Calvo is executive director of Latino Memphis. To learn more about Latino Memphis, go to latinomemphis.org.)