Ahead of his trip to Alabama in honor of the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, President Obama invoked the "spirit" of the historic civil rights demonstration to defend amnesty for illegal immigrants, and suggesting that illegal immigrants should be afforded the same rights as legal citizens.
In an interview on Sirius XM's "Urban View," the president said deporting illegal immigrants who have been here since they were young violated the "spirit" of the march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge:
The notion that some kid that was brought here when he was two or three years old might somehow be deported at the age of 20 or 25, even though they’ve grown up as American, that's not who we are. That’s not true to the spirit of what the march on Selma was about.
Obama employed the civil rights rhetoric to defend the executive actions he took in 2012 and 2014 to grant temporary amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Saying his unilateral actions aligned with civil rights leaders' vision of an "inclusive America," the president suggested that those here illegally should be granted the same rights as legal citizens:
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, it was the promise of an America where everybody was equal under the law...
Obama also specifically linked the struggle for racial equality to gay rights, saying that Selma and the civil rights movement was not just about "one race" but about treating all people "fairly."
One of the great reasons we celebrate that day of the civil rights movement, and we celebrate the march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, is that it didn't just open up the doors for black folks … it was about America and who we are.
And that's a legacy we have to be proud of, but we have to understand what that spirit was about, it wasn’t just about one race, it was about who all of us are as Americans.
Partial transcript via The Hill.