Marc H. Morial Keynote at Howard University School of Law
National Urban League President & CEO Marc H. Morial was the keynote speaker at Howard University Law School’s Wiley A. Branton Symposium on immigration equality. The symposium is a critical space for thought-provoking scholarship and leadership, named in honor of HUSL’s former Dean, the late Wiley A. Branton, and hosted by the Howard Law Journal with support from Sidley Austin LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
President Morial illuminated why and how immigration isn’t just an issue of concern for Latino communities but also for Black communities. The numbers show that 10% of Black Americans are immigrants. They are people who were not born in the United States but in African nations like Nigeria and Ethiopia and Caribbean countries like Jamaica and Haiti. And demographers tell us that in about 15 to 20 years, the share of Black Americans who are Black immigrants or the children of Black immigrants will triple to 30%.
Those numbers are not insignificant. In fact, they highlight why it’s imperative for our communities to engage around immigration policy and understand the impact of those policies on our present and our future.
President Morial contextualized the pattern of disparate, exclusionary immigration practices that were embedded in American law from the very beginning. Decades of policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the 1917 Immigration Act barred immigration from most Asian countries and sent a resounding message that all are not welcome here. We are still grappling with the legacy of these racist laws and battling contemporary challenges that limit prosperity, opportunity, and freedom for immigrants in this country.
The law students, mostly in their first year, were able to pose questions to President Morial during a Q&A and spoke passionately about issues of priority to them. Morial encouraged them to become excellent lawyers and recognize that the law is but a means and justice is the end. The Civil Rights Movement was all about taking down unjust laws using principles of the U.S. Constitution.
HUSL Dean Danielle Holley shared the impressive work of the students in community service, including voter engagement work they’ve planned in the lead up to the midterm elections. President Morial empowered them to run for office themselves if they don’t like the candidates on the ballot or if they want to see the fruition of certain policies. That’s what he did at age 30, ascending to becoming Louisiana State Senator and Mayor of New Orleans.
Congratulations to the Howard Law Journal for a successful symposium! We are inspired by their vision and leadership.