Juneteenth Launches African-American Immigration Reform Initiative

New America Media, News Report, Khalil Abdullah Posted: Jun 19, 2009

Today, on Juneteenth, a date steeped in the rich symbolism of freedom for African Americans, community organization ACORN intends to raise the banner of comprehensive immigration reform by announcing the launch of The Black Leadership Immigration Project from the pulpit of a Phoenix, Ariz., church.

ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis, who will be joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, said she came to Phoenix “because African-Americans need to be part of immigration reform, the civil rights movement of the 21st Century.”

Lewis said that when she speaks from the pulpit of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, home to an African-American congregation, she will bring “an anti-racial profiling message and the fight for the right of immigrants to be treated as human beings into Joe Arpaio’s backyard.”

Phoenix is in Maricopa County, whose Sheriff Joe Arpaio is being investigated by the federal justice department for racial profiling in his aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.

In addition, tensions in the state have been heightened by recent shooting deaths in Arivaca, Ariz., a three-hour drive almost due south of Phoenix near the Mexican border. Raul Flores and his daughter Brisenia, 9, were slain, allegedly by members of the Minuteman American Defense, in what some speculated was a bungled burglary/home invasion.

Nevertheless, Monica Sandschafer, head of ACORN’s Arizona chapter, senses a growing willingness in the county’s residents to be more outspoken about condemning harsh anti-immigrant sentiments -- and Arpaio’s gambits at snaring undocumented immigrants by targeting Latinos in highly publicized raids in and around Phoenix.

“Arizona is ground zero for immigration, unfortunately. A particularly egregious example of what happens in the vacuum of comprehensive immigration reform,” Sandschafer said, adding that she is pleased at the local representation supporting the event.

“I’m glad Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, is coming. Ben Jealous couldn’t make it because of a scheduling conflict,” she said, referring to the NAACP president, “but we have pastors and faith leaders, as well as representatives from Tonatierra/Puente, a day laborer organization here, all gathering in the defense of civil rights and against racial profiling of any community.”

Other organizations scheduled to participate in the morning’s Juneteenth Unity Prayer Service include Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice; Arizona Latino Commission; Greater Phoenix Urban League; the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor who has been highly critical of Sheriff Arpaio.

Sharpton has criticized Arpaio as well and called for his resignation as recently as April after a raid the sheriff conducted. But, it has been reported that the reverend will likely accept an invitation to meet with the sheriff to debate their respective positions.

Lewis made an acutely political and culturally conscious decision in selecting June 19 as the kick-off for what she hopes will become an effective vehicle to encourage African Americans to join the movement for comprehensive immigration reform. On that date in 1865, almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued by President Lincoln, African-American residents of Galveston, Texas, finally got word of their emancipation.

But Lewis’s selection of Phoenix as a kick-off site on Juneteenth harbors another message. Though not a federal holiday, some form of Juneteenth observance is officially recognized in more than 30 states. Arizona is not one of them.

“ACORN is the largest grassroots membership organization of black and brown people in the United States,” said Lewis. The organization has 500,000 member families. Its growth could represent a powerful voice for immigration reform if its members weigh in on their elected representatives.

In fact, Lewis was in Washington, D.C., in early June participating with almost 800 other community organizers during the kick-off of the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, a coalition of faith, labor, corporate, and other immigrant reform activists.

“Our membership is unique: one third immigrant, one-third African American, one third Latino,” Lewis said of ACORN. “We deal with all the bread and butter issues that affect poor people in this country.” ACORN’s members understand the complexities of poverty and struggle in America, she added. Then, with a steady gaze and an air borne of the confidence of imminent victory, Lewis smiled: “My support for immigration reform is patriotic. African Americans don’t need to be in front, but we need to be a part.”

Related Articles:

Arizona’s ‘False Leadership’ on Immigration Policy

Tom Horne to Ethnic Studies: Drop Dead!

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User Comments

TL Winslow on Jul 08, 2009 at 20:14:01 said:

The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It's time for a paradigm change.

Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

Google "Megamerge Dissolution Solution".

Dana Garcia on Jun 19, 2009 at 16:37:40 said:

Black Americans would be crazy to support amnesty for millions of excess workers. Washington\'s chatter about an upcoming amnesty entices more foreigners to come here in hopes of being covered.

Low skilled citizens compete directly with illegal aliens for a shrinking number of jobs. The recession has been very tough on young black men, with nearly half of those aged 20-24 being jobless.

A job crisis for young black men

IdahoPhobia on Jun 19, 2009 at 13:27:56 said:

I'm happy these guys have joined the immigration debate front & center. The right wing necons racists, nativists, war mongers, etc. have spewed hate & xenophobia in the debate, making any sensible debate unrealizabale. I want the DEMS to take charge os this debate.

Jobs on Jun 19, 2009 at 13:19:45 said:

One a guy like Al Sharpton can understand the pain of illegal immigrants, the reason is because the Blacks fought against the bad laws of Slavery in past and its the same Slavery illegals are going through. Before the Masters were Whites and today are the Business owners and Farmers.... before the blacks were bought in as slaves & today the illegals are made slaves in farms and factories without any rights. The bad laws of immigration must be changed to bring the illegals out of shadow, the same way laws of slavery were abolished. God Bless Everyone, God Bless America.

We must all remember the lessons of human rights and civil rights before its too late.


Its because illegal immigrants cheap labor that we can still get cheap food.

If there are 10-12 Million working illegals in US and doing the same that we do for less, who benefits?? For Example a Meat packer before was paid $19 + benefits ($5 expense to company) total of $24 an illegal does the same job for $7-$10 without any benefits. Average saving of $14 - $17 an hour X 10-12 million illegals X 10-15 hours a day (you do the math) = $1400 - $3060 Million saving everyday passed to the consumer in cheap labor ... eventually this savings is passed to us by the company thus we can get cheap food.

If it was not for illegals all our companies might go the way GM did! Please have mercy on them and their kids they are humans too. I guess we love our pets (animals) more then we hate these illegals.

I wish they can get to live decent life too.

Dan on Jun 19, 2009 at 13:16:28 said:

We all love cheap goods!

We posses plenty of land (we need cheap farm workers), we need cheap labor done (particularly mowing lawn, roofing, masonry, drywall, and stucco), we love good and cheap food (we employ illegals at meat processing plants and restaurants) we are made of immigrants, yet we let our racist nature get the worst of us. Nevertheless illegal immigrants at great fear work the jobs we refuse to work (I bet non of us wanna work any of the above jobs for $5 an hour) and we turn around look down at them and deny fair pay, drivers license and peace of mind. When are we going to realize that history repeats its self (1st were our great grandparents looking out for us and now are they), Society is being unfair everybody but the ones that touched their hearts anguishly follow the crowd. Later after the many struggle of these people, the many separated families, we are going to realize that we were wrong.... And we are going to want to bury our heads in the ground like ostriches to hide our shame.

The Congress must pass a comprehensive immigration reform this year. It is disgusting that in the XXI century America millions have absolutely no rights. They speak English, work hard, and most of them pay taxes. They are not all criminals, yes hardcore criminals must be removed from USA. Stop the hatred! I am ashamed to call myslef an American in such circumstances. Call your Senators, action is needed NOW. We must bring millions out of shadow and let them enjoy American life as we do. God bless President Obama and all others who will support and pray God for immigration reform... Yes We Can

Jose P. Parisi on Jun 19, 2009 at 10:06:46 said:

Cable tabloid talking heads have gotten out of hand. Hate monger messages and lies such as the one\' Hannity and O\'reilly deliver on a nightly basis need to be neutralize. Although they are many of those self promoting megalomaniacs on radio and TV throughout the day, Hannity and O\'Reilly are the most disrespectful and shameless hate pimps. They would say anything to sell their books, or create any imaginary controversy for the sake of higher ratings.

These two clowns hide behind a false sense of patriotism in order to make their vitriol a bit more attractive to their gullible audience.

Mrs. Lewis and reverend Sharpton need to be commended for their constant fight against this type of false venomous rhetoric.




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