For the past week or more, America's airwaves, TV screens and newspapers have been filled with justified outrage against the failure of law enforcement to take action against the killer of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager in Florida. There have been many demonstrations and protests, and most other news items have been pushed to the background. Indeed, there has been so much media publicity over the case that if the killer, George Zimmerman, is ever actually arrested and charged, his lawyers will undoubtedly claim inability to receive a fair trial in any part of the US as a defense.
The killing, with apparent impunity, of a young man who, based on information that has been released so far, committed no offense other than the "crime" of being black, is without doubt, a terrible indictment of racial attitudes in 21st Century America. However, there is another ongoing racial injustice in America, one that affects many more people. It is one that has caused dozens of deaths of immigrants in detention facilities and thousands of people at the Mexican border.
Using America's immigration laws as a weapon against brown skinned people from every part of the world has broken up thousands of American families, forced tens or hundreds of thousands of people to submit to being rounded up like animals, locked up in inhuman conditions and, in places such as Maricopa County, Arizona and many others, to be humiliated and treated with deliberate sadism. It has created fear and terror in minority communities in every part of this country, but especially in states such as Alabama and Arizona. Above all, it has resulted in the deportation of as many as 400,000 brown- skinned immigrants each year by a brown -skinned president who claims to be sympathetic to the very people whom he is locking up and kicking out of America.
It has also resulted in promises by all of President Obama's Republican opponents, especially Mitt Romney, the most likely GOP presidential candidate, to take even harsher action against Hispanic and other non-white immigrants, unless they "deport themselves". If he is elected president, every state in the union will be free to become its own Alabama, Arizona, or South Carolina toward immigrants. An even more draconian law, one modeled after H.R. 3447, passed by the Republican House of Representatives in late 2005, could easily become the law of the land.
For those with short memories, one of the provisions of H.R. 3447 would have made even the most trivial and technical immigration infraction, such as walking outside one's home without carrying one's alien registration card, a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Giving any "assistance" to an unauthorized immigrant (religious counseling? legal advice? medical treatment?) would also have been a federal felony with the same punishment.
By all means, let there be more protests, demonstrations, and expressions of outrage until justice is done in the Trayvon Martin case. But where are the protests, the demonstrations and the outrage over America's treatment of minority immigrants?
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years