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Civil rights and immigration law have similar connections

Last Wednesday, the nation celebrated the anniversary of a momentous occasion in American history. August 28, 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march drew nearly 250,000 people from across the nation, and was highlighted by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

The people in attendance came from a variety of backgrounds: African American, Caucasian, Latino, and from a number of socioeconomic levels. The march is also credited for leading to sweeping changes in American civil rights law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which includes important provisions that prohibit discrimination in the workplace, in retail establishments, as well as by government agencies was signed into law the very next year.

The march was also a turning point for how immigrants were treated (and included) in American society. In 1965, President Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act, which transformed America's immigration policy and opened the doors of immigration to regions of the world that had been closed for decades. It also led to dramatic demographic changes that would be protected through the previous Civil Rights Act. 

Immigration policy is at the cusp of another major overhaul, with an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It is appropriate to remember that the message evoked through the march was that all Americans should be treated equally. In essence, the "illegal" immigrants who have taken the jobs no one wanted and sought better opportunities for their families should be given the same consideration as others who have come before them.

Source:, "Civil rights and immigration history connected," Deepti Hajela, Associated Press, Aug. 26, 2013