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Juneteenth, Immigrants and the Meaning of Emancipation

Posted by: Gordon on 6/25/2014

At Rep Boehner's office

At House Speaker John Boehner's office, Juneteenth

This past week the Gamaliel network was in Washington, D.C. for Advanced Leadership Training. We also celebrated Juneteenth while we were there -- with action. We prayed in front of the locked office doors of U.S. Rep. John Boehner that he would see the light in the days remaining before we come to a legislative deadline for this session.

These two pieces were written in honor of Juneteenth, this past week during the ALT: The first is by Antonia Alvarez with Cirien Saadeh, co-founder and communications coordinator of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles in Minnesota and is reprinted from Equal Voice News. The second is by Nailah Pope-Harden of Capital Region Organizing Project [Facebook] in Sacramento, Calif.

Immigrants still await emancipation 

By Antonia Alvarez and Cirien Saadeh, La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles Antonia Alvarez

Juneteenth, June 19th, is Emancipation Day. However, it is also only a reminder that Emancipation is still but a promise undelivered. 

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." 

The work of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles is informed by this ideology, and we would like to see our representatives hold their work true to this Constitution.
  
This past week, dozens of leaders, members, and allies of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Asamblea) completed a weeklong national bus tour, visiting congressional offices and conducting actions, for a just immigration reform and for Emancipation. 

 On this Juneteenth, we are still seeking our own Emancipation. Undocumented immigrants in this country are living under increasingly sophisticated conditions of slavery, and it is necessary to remember that Emancipation is the only path to freedom for more than eleven million undocumented immigrants. 

We are Americans, and we are simply seeking a realistic, shortened, and humane path to citizenship. We can no longer stand living in the shadows, being criminalized and prosecuted because we are perceived as subhuman by our current immigration laws. The immigration system that exists is unjust and oppressive. Congress must act now to pass a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. 

This bus tour also serves as a reminder to Congress: we'll be voting in November. The Latino vote will decide this election. We will vote, and if we cannot vote, we will get out the vote for immigration reform. This past Wednesday, as part of our bus tour, Asamblea representatives met with Congressman Keith Ellison. 

As a representative who has closely worked with our organization in the past, and who is openly supportive of a humane and comprehensive immigration reform, he stated, "You are there to lift up human dignity." His words resonate with our work today more than ever.

*** 

Immigration Reform: Emancipation All Over Again

By Nailah Pope-Harden, Capital Region Organizing Project

Nailah Pope WareOn June 19, 1865 federal troops announced to enslaved Texans they were free: "this involves the absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves," the order reads in part. In essence this is the day the African-American community formed, when people were liberated and able to develop an identity beyond slavery.

On Juneteenth 2014, in Washington D.C. at John Boehner's office Gamaliel set out to be those troops for immigrants. Members of Gamaliel along with La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles lined the congressional hallways holding lights and singing the hymn "This Little Light of Mine."

 As we left, we dropped the lights at John Boehner's door along with a clock, representing that the time is now for immigration reform. The hall filled with the chant "si se puede." The spirit and feel of Juneteenth was in the air. As participants walked outside our message was clear: emancipate the immigrants.

 Many compare the immigration fight to the Civil Rights Movement. I argue a better comparison is the Immigration fight as it relates to slavery. We as a country are once again building an economy on the backs of those that have no rights and no say in our democracy.

As U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minn., supporter of Immigration said, "it takes ordinary people." There is not a need for education, for talent, for skill. There is only right and wrong and a willingness to do what is right.

 The scenes are the same. There were blacks that were free. Just as there are immigrants that have become naturalized. Some blacks fought for the abolition of slavery while some blacks owned slaves. Similar to how there are factions of ethnic groups that do not support immigration reform, and there are others that work at it every day.

The economies are similar. During the era of slavery there was a divide between agriculture and industry. This divide pitted regions against each other fearful of the loss of income. Now with immigration reform is the fear of losing the few jobs that are available. Just as in the case of slavery there needs to be a culture shift to understand that immigration can help to create jobs and grow the economy.

 We cannot sit and pretend we are an innovative, forward-thinking country if we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Imagine how this will read 150 years from now in history books. Are we setting the example for future generations that we oppress and then apologize? For the reputation and future of the country there needs to be Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

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