Danae Columbus: What to the immigrant is the Fourth of July?

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Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

On July 5, 1852 former slave, abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass delivered an impassioned speech — known today as “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” — to President Millard Fillmore, congressional leaders and members of the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society at Rochester New York’s Corinthian Hall. Douglass’s stirring words struck at the heart of racial and social injustice as he chastised his predominately white audience for their hypocrisy. In that era, our country’s leading elected leaders enslaved Africans while espousing freedom, justice and equality. Not too much has changed in 150 years.

While many – but not all – descendants of enslaved Africans have made great strides, America’s new hypocrisy also includes the way our government treats current migrants fleeing from war, gang violence or economic hardship in Central America and the Middle East. President Trump’s inhumane attempt to punish them by separating families at the border is morally unacceptable.

America was built on migrant labor and still needs these people to succeed. They are often willing to perform back-breaking work that other Americans consider demeaning. Yet, America’s immigration policy should have some standards. When my mother and other relatives came through Ellis Island, they had to fit within the established quota and meet basic guidelines including being free of disease. Today’s immigrants should go through a similar but updated process.

“The limits of tyrants,” Douglass said, “are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Like my ancestors, today’s migrants are a sturdy lot. The Central American refugees who clean short term rentals, serve meals out of their SUVs, or labor at construction sites, are living the American dream that so many of their countrymen are willing to risk their lives to experience. With proper guidelines, coupled with dignity and respect, we owe them that opportunity.


Congressman Cedric Richmond, left, hosted a talk with senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts in Dillard University’s Georges auditorium in August 2018. Richmond and Warren discussed some of the policies she supports and today’s current political climate. (Zach Brien, GentillyMessenger.com)

The 25th Anniversary Essence Music Festival is coordinating a series of five “Presidential Spotlight” segments Saturday, July 6 and Sunday July 7 where Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Mayor Pete Buttigieg will separately pitch attendees and answer questions posed by Rev. Al Sharpton, an MSNBC commentator. The network will air the presentations, which are free and open to the public with Essence Festival registration.

Harris is expected to be the crowd favorite in part because many of her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters from around the country will be in the audience. According to Dr. Ron Faucheux, three polls taken after last week’s presidential debate show that Harris is closing the gap between her and front-runner former VP Joe Biden who will be addressing New Orleans voters on Tuesday, July 23. Polling close to Harris are Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose numbers are dropping as Harris’ and Warren’s are rising. Buttigieg is now running fifth, followed by Booker and O’Rourke.

While Sanders has raised $18 million in the last three months, the real fundraising trophy belongs to Buttigieg, who is pulling in donors large and small. A group of supporters including Dr. Marc Behar, Jason Waguespack, Aimee Siegel, Donna Rosen, Rick Duplantier, Suzy Montero and Mark Romig are hosting an intimate fundraiser for him Sunday, July 7 immediately following Buttigieg’s remarks at Essence.

The presidential candidates speaking at Essence will be presenting their progressive agendas for America’s future. These messages are troubling to Democratic Party centrists who prefer Biden’s more moderate policies. Although progressives and democratic socialists have been winning races around the country and here in New Orleans, the jury is still out as to whether they represent the majority of voters who will select the next president.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) poses for a social-media video with members of the Eleanor McMain choir after speaking at Xavier University. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)


The PSA consistently rates people arrested for severe felony charges as very low risk, says the MCC. In a review of more than 4,000 records over a nine-month period, the MCC determined that 29% of murder suspects and 38% of rape suspects were rated at the lowest risk level, which allows their free release without supervision. The report suggests that the Pretrial Services Program adopt an assessment tool that accurately identifies potentially dangerous offenders. The MCC also recommended that a law-enforcement-run electronic monitoring program be put in place to better track those who have been released.


Political consultant and activist Debra V. Chapman Kareem has told chose friends that she intends to announce soon for House District 93, a seat currently held by first-term legislator Royce Duplessis. Duplessis won a special election to fill the seat after Helena Moreno was elected to the City Council. The mother of former interim Clerk of First City Court Timothy David Ray, Chapman is executive director of the non-profit Each One Save One. She is also vice president of the New Orleans Coalition, a member of the Independent Women’s Organization and a former treasurer of the local branch of the NAACP. Ray says he has not ruled out running for the legislature in the fall. If both were elected, they might well be the first mother-son duo to serve simultaneously.


Governor John Bel Edwards, who easily carried Orleans Parish in his first race for governor, will greet his New Orleans supporters Monday morning, July 8, at 10 a.m. at 1516 Thalia Street, which will serve as the New Orleans headquarters. Many Democratic elected officials and political organization leaders are expected to be on hand.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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