Durham County

Can Barber take immigrant message nationwide? He’ll get his chance in El Paso, Texas.

Rev. William Barber II speaks at RDU International Airport in Morrisville on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 before departing for El Paso, Texas to participate in the Moral Mass Gathering.
Rev. William Barber II speaks at RDU International Airport in Morrisville on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017 before departing for El Paso, Texas to participate in the Moral Mass Gathering. jjohnson@heraldsun.com

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II is known for facing down moral inequalities and he’s leading a contingent to El Paso, Texas to participate in a gathering Sunday, Oct. 22 at the U.S.-Mexico border to do it again.

He’ll be joined by civil right leaders and immigrant rights advocates, who are launching a new national “poor people’s campaign” modeled after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final crusade.

Barber, along with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, the associate minister at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, and Ana Ilarraza Blackburn, the Latino liaison for the N.C. NAACP, left Saturday for the Texas rally where they intend to voice their concerns about current treatment of immigrants in this country.

“It’s going to take the church to come into the public square, people of faith to come into the public square, who know that nations have a moral obligation to take care of all of God’s creations,” Barber said.

Organizers say the new campaign on the 50th anniversary of King’s campaign seeks to draw on the history of those efforts and include immigration.

Barber is scheduled to lead a community march and mass gathering to begin the “Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.”

Some participants took part in a news conference at RDU International Airport before departing for the event in El Paso, Texas, which begins with a march at 3 p.m. Sunday and continues with a mass meeting at 4 p.m.

“Immigrants have made a difference in this country,” Barber said. “We’re looking for fair and just policies for our immigrants.”

Barber, the former president of the N.C. NAACP, has increasingly sought to spotlight what he believes are the shortcomings of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, especially towards those aimed at immigrants from Central and South America.

It is estimated that about 12 million undocumented immigrants are in the country. About 800,000 of those immigrants were brought into this country as children and were protected under the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals act, or DACA.

Trump has ordered an end to DACA effective in March and asked Congress to pass a replacement for it before his order takes effect. DACA was initiated by an executive order by then-President Barack Obama five years ago.

“We have politicians in the country who are trying to place requirements on our immigrant brothers and sisters, particularly Latino immigrants, that their parents and grandparents could not have met,” Barber said. “There are people who want to be here. There are students who were born here and gone to our schools here. What we need to do is stop playing games with the lives of people. America is a nation of immigrants.”

Barber blamed Trump for allowing the Republican Party to slide towards what he called its current anti-immigrant stance.

“It is a moral travesty that we’re seeing this kind of resistance from the president down to the extremists who have highjacked the Republican Party,” Barber said. “They’re playing games with our immigrants, dangerous games, family-splitting games. That is not America and that is not more.”

“We trying to educate the citizens of this country and we’re going to stand in solidarity with our Latino brothers and sisters,” Blackburn said. “We going to show that North Carolina in in the forefront of the fight against this racism.”

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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