The following commentary was provided at JCA's Freedom Seder by Abbie Shain.
Ningun ser humano es ilegal.
No human is illegal.
If you know me, you have probably heard me talk about what I call the “Dominican side of my family”. Like the good Jewish, white girl that I am, I grew up eating platanos and arroz con leche, celebrating Christmas Eve, and studying for the citizenship test so that that my Nana, my grandmother in all ways but blood, could vote. We aren't blood relatives and I am not Latina but my definition of family goes way beyond genes. At my Nana’s house I could eat sugar cereal and stay up late and speak in Spanish.
Many of my memories are of listening to the Dominican side of my family worry about how to make ends meet. My Nana was an undocumented single mother and abuse survivor who put five kids through college. Growing up, I never didn’t know what privilege was. Incubated by whiteness and class privilege, I saw our criminal injustice systems work the way they are designed to as incarceration, addiction, and the threat of eviction impacted people who I don’t just love, but who taught me what love is.
I am taking action not because of an abstract vision of social justice, but because immigration justice is personal to my family. I know that one of the ways that whiteness works is to distance me and other white people from people who are different than us and that is one of the many ways that I am so grateful to my Dominican family who held me when I was just born and continue to hold me now. Still, I want to be very clear that my family is not valuable or notable because of what they have given me or because of their labor or productivity.
All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because of their inherent worthiness.
As a Jew, I am lost for words to describe the rage and fear I feel that governmental officials in uniforms come to people’s homes in the middle of the night, tear families apart, and put people on trains that bring them to detention centers. I am so humbled to be organizing with JCA, for the first time bringing my Jewish values and my politics together. My Nana’s name is Vertudes which means truth, and her presence in my life reminds me that we can tell a different story. The Minneapolis Police Force is only 150 years old. ICE is only 15 years old. Ningun ser humano es illegal. No human is illegal, but these policies should be.
We created these systems and we can destroy them.
Please join me in saying nunca mas. Never again.