A Little Thaw in “Ice-Land”

Martin Luther King’s joyous cry, “Free at Last,” at the historic 1963 March rang out for a whole nation and a whole people. Echoing an immortal old Negro Spiritual, his thunderous words rang loud and clear and galvanized the hopes and dreams of millions. Recently that cry rang true for a single soul as well. He is Jai Shankar, an Indian National – cruelly detained and hobbled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities, for several years, as are countless Latinos and other immigrants today – never mind their extraordinary number of good works as model immigrants, performed for American society in general, and for the betterment of DC as well. As a TENAC volunteer, Jai has helped the disabled, done chores for the elderly, helped those facing eviction, and collected and given free food to the homeless.   Now in a time of deep national division and demagoguery over immigration policy, President Obama’s June 15, 2012 executive action was a magnificent blow for those brought to our shores at a tender age, but still facing deportation. King’s theme of “freedom” was writ large in Obama’s order as well. We say kudos to him for this courageous and just action. We also say kudos to the D.C. Council for landmark recent legislation curtailing unfair harassment of Latinos and inappropriate referrals to ICE.   We focus on the Jay Shankar situation since it embodies so much that is wrong with immigration policy and because it is a special beacon of hope for the future. All of three actions, by King, Obama, and the Council, have reverberated locally, nationally and globally, and have doubled back and devolved upon a single individual: Jai Shankar.   Imagine yourself a young man, penniless, in a new land, a new language, entirely on your own. Work is episodic and poorly paid, hunger is no stranger, and shelter is little more than a hovel. Imagine all these hardships, struggling and persevering every day, and still falling in love with that land and its people. Imagine yourself gifted with charm, a good word for everybody, Hollywood handsome, and immensely popular. Imagine yourself a selfless guy, with a record of service, charity, and generosity to those whom the Bible calls “the least of the brethren.” When you have imagined all these things, you have Jai Shankar.   Through the outstanding efforts of Sandra Grossman, Esq., Jai has been granted a reprieve, including removal of the monitoring shackles from his leg, granted working papers, and above all, a grant of hope for the future. Hopefully he will be a harbinger of good fortune for the Latinos among us, and a surrogate for those courageous, long-suffering people who have endured enormous hardships, as did Jai, living in the same no-man’s land, a.k.a. “ICEland,” still awaiting Dr. King’s “Free at Last”! “Free at Last”! “Thank God almighty,” “Free at Last”!