A day ahead of the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, President Obama said he absolutely thinks immigration is a modern-day civil rights issue.
Obama said during an interview that aired Friday on Sirius XMs Urban View with Joe Madison that deporting undocumented immigrants who come to the United States as children doesnt reflect the spirit of what the march on Selma was about.
The notion that some young kid who was brought here when they were two or three years old might somehow be deported at the age of 20 or 25 even though theyve grown up as Americans, thats not who we are, he said.
The president isnt the first to refer to immigration as a civil rights issue. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg did the same in November 2013 when he said that the plight of undocumented youth seems like its one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time.
Obamas remarks come at a time when the executive actions he took in November to provide deportation relief and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants are facing a legal challenge.
A federal judge from Texas issued a ruling last month to temporarily block the presidents executive actions from being implemented. The Justice Department has appealed the judges ruling, arguing the president acted within his authority.
Obama defended his position on immigration during the radio interview on Friday, saying it reflects the lessons learned from the Selma-to-Montgomery march about an inclusive America.
When you think about the principle that was upheld that day and in subsequent days at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it was the promise of an inclusive America, he said. It was the promise of an America where everybody is equal under the law, where everybody has opportunity.
The president also linked the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement. He said discriminating against people with different sexual orientations goes against the concept that everybody has to be treated equally under the law.
The radio interview came a day before Obama travels to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Hell visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge where hundreds of peaceful civil rights demonstrators were brutally attacked by police on March 7, 1965, while attempting to march to Montgomery in support of voting rights.
The president said that while improvements have been made since the Selma-to-Montgomery march, challenges remain for the African American community. As an example, he pointed to the report released earlier this week by the Justice Department that details the racial bias found in the Ferguson Police Department. Obama said this kind of behavior leads to mistrust between minority communities and law enforcement.
I dont think that is typical of what happens across the country, but its not an isolated incident, he said.
While in Selma, the president will be joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia. He said he hopes the event will serve as a learning experience for his daughters.
I want them to get that sense that enormous change can happen just because a group of people decide that theyre going to be willing to take risks on behalf of justice, he said. I also want the girls to understand that you dont have to have a high office, you dont have to have a fancy title or have great wealth in order to make a difference.