Thursday, September 02, 2010

Mark Charles on Immigration Reform

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue
My friend, Mark Charles, offers an intriguing perspective on the topic of immigration reform. Mark, who is a member of the Navajo tribe, has some compelling insights on the role that Native Americans can (and should) play in the national dialogue on comprehensive immigration reform.

Here's what he has to say:
"One of the buzz phrases I have heard in many social justice circles regarding the issue of immigration reform is “Comprehensive and Just Immigration Reform”. But I have taken a slight twist on that idea and have used it to advocate for our Native American communities by pointing out that “immigration reform will be neither comprehensive nor just unless it includes the voices and perspectives of the Native American peoples.

Right now I am not even advocating for any specific policy or stance. Instead I am merely observing that the voices of Native American are largely absent from this conversation. And so I am trying to speak to two separate audiences.

To our Native American communities I want to communicate that this is an important and historic dialogue for our country and our land and that we, as indigenous peoples, can offer a unique and invaluable perspective. We are the original inhabitants of this land and for the first time in centuries we have an opportunity to shape the dialogue regarding who should and should not be allowed to be here. So I want to encourage our people to step up and take our place in this conversation.

And to non-Native communities I am trying to point out the irony of trying to reform a policy on immigration without the indigenous inhabitants of the land participating in the conversation. I have witnessed and am convicted that merely our presence at the table where immigration reform is being discussed fundamentally effects and alters the conversation. This is because our Native American community is a visual reminder of our country’s unjust history regarding immigration policy, and that is even before we begin speaking and offering our distinct perspectives on the land and our relationship to it. And so I want our country and our leaders to pause, and notice that the Native American community is not actively a part of this conversation and then to intentionally invite us to the table.

I do not believe that either community can resolve this issue alone. And even together we are not going to get it perfect. But both voices are necessary if we want this reform to be more comprehensive and more just than our current policy is now."
To learn about some of Mark's upcoming speaking opportunities and to read more of his thoughts, you can visit his blog here.

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