Forty-eight years ago, SPLC founder Morris Dees stood at the Alabama Capitol at the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march and heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak on the importance of the vote in democracy. In his view, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the section that contains extra voting rights protections that apply mainly to the South — is still necessary.
Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a blow to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and similar copycat laws that have sprung up in other states. The court’s decision affirms that much about these laws is unconstitutional because many of their provisions are preempted by federal law. The decision also shows the court has significant concerns about the one provision they allowed to stand.
The Department of Labor is expanding access to visas that provide protection for victims of trafficking and certain crimes in the workplace – offenses that are common in SPLC cases involving immigrant workers.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Selma-to-Montgomery March, we should rededicate ourselves to the cause with a renewed sense of urgency and the determination of those who marched the 54 miles to the Alabama Capitol.
Remembering the sacrifices of the past is important, but it’s not enough. We must address the racial and economic inequality that is so evident 50 years after the Voting Rights Act and 150 years after slavery was abolished.