Rep. John Lewis: "If Any One Of Us Is Illegal, Then We All Are Illegal"

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It looks like pro-migrant folks are doing some amazing organizing down in Georgia.  The local NBC affiliate, 11 Alive, says upwards of 3,000 people attended a rally in opposition to a nativist legislative clone of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.  For those of you pro-migrant folks reading in Georgia, call up your local legislators and tell them you oppose House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 40

What caught my attention on this Saturday morning, though, is a speech Rep. John Lewis (D-GA-5) gave at the rally:

(Sombrero Tip to Freedom From Fear)

My favorite part of the speech is the following:
We all live in the same house.  If any one of us is illegal, then we all are illegal.  There is no illegal human being.  Say it over and over again.
John Lewis - YouTube (24 March 2011)
I hope the Drop The I-Word campaign takes note of this.  I think there are those of us in the pro-migrant movement, myself included, than tend to over-complicate things.  We like to drop statistics, talk about the broad systems that oppress migrants, and endlessly debate amongst each other the best strategy for moving forward.  All of these are important, but not as important as communicating one message to anyone that will listen: "No human being is illegal." I believe this phrase captures the essence of the entire pro-migrant movement.  Nativists like dehumanize migrants with the phrase "What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand?"  We have to respond over and over with our vision of the world where no human beings are illegal. 

This is also probably a good time to tell one of my favorite stories of organizing with migrant youth.  For those that don't know, Rep. Lewis was a youth leader of the civil rights movement as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Many migrant youth leaders today have studied the history of SNCC to inform their organizing.

A large group of migrant youth leaders went down to Washington D.C. during the summer of 2010 both to take part in DREAM University and for an action by the The DREAM Is Coming which included a national DREAM graduation and ended up climaxing in the historic arrests of the DREAM Act 21

The day the DREAM Act 21 were arrested, July 20, I was marching around the Capitol with hundreds of supporters in the blistering summer heat.  We ended up passing by Rep. Lewis who was waving to us from a balcony of a building I can't remember.  He was instantly recognized by those of who were marching by and we started calling for him to come join us.  He didn't join us, but he certainly heard us, and I remember wondering if it would have any affect on him.  Within the next couple of days, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act

It could have been that he was also affected by legislative visits from constituents in Georgia, but I don't believe anyone from Georgia was there that day.  I know I visited with a contigent from Maine that was able to get Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) to co-sponsor the DREAM Act after an office visit.  Either way, I can't help but feel that Rep. Lewis felt a connection to a group of young people like us marching through the Capitol as I imagine he did in his youth many times.  I'll put it a press request with his office to see if I can verify it.  If anyone connected to Rep. Lewis's office is reading this, please contact Citizen Orange through this form.

[Update from Dave Bennion, 3/27/11]: I was staying with some activists from Georgia in D.C. during the DREAM Act week of action last July, and I remember that they mentioned they met with Rep. Lewis and asked him to support the DREAM Act.  I don't remember now who I spoke to since there was a lot going on that week.

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on March 26, 2011 9:39 AM.

Pennsylvania Dreamers Come Out of the Shadows and into the Streets was the previous entry in this blog.

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