“Less well known is that John Lewis was one of the most courageous and consistent advocates for just and humane immigration policies”
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who passed away Friday, is remembered rightly as a life-long champion for civil rights and voting rights. Less well known is that John Lewis was one of the most courageous and consistent advocates for just and humane immigration policies. The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
John Lewis, an American hero and civil rights icon for six decades, is remembered with profound gratitude by immigrants and immigrant advocates. He was an outspoken champion for immigrants in the Congressional Black Caucus, in Congress and across the nation.
He was the leader and spokesperson for the Immigrant Worker Freedom Rides of 2003, a nationwide bottom-up campaign that jump-started the movement after the 9/11 backlash. This caravan of bus tours and rallies crossed the country culminating in a rally of over 100,000 people in New York City. At the time, such a rally was unprecedented in the immigrants’ rights movement, and it helped inspire the mass immigration rallies that happened a few years later.
In particular, John Lewis became a stalwart ally of Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), one of our great champions. Rep. Lewis spoke up in the Congress, built coalitions, led marches and rallies, and even got arrested with Rep. Gutierrez and dozens of activists (including yours truly) in an act of civil disobedience in 2013 to advance the pro-immigrant policy agenda.
So clear was his commitment that in a moment of truth Rep. Lewis was unafraid to put pressure on President Obama, the first African-American president, for whom Lewis was an iconic mentor and role model. The movement demanded that President Obama use the power of the presidency to protect Dreamers and other immigrants from deportation after Congress failed to do so. John Lewis was right there with us.
John Lewis’ legendary kindness, oratory, courage and persistence was of enormous importance to immigrants, refugees and their allies. He served as a teacher and mentor to movements that learned from the experiences he lived and the personal sacrifices he made. There are few Americans who have done as much to advance the foundational ideals of America.
John Lewis personified a commitment to citizenship to which we all aspire, whether we are citizens or not. Now he can rest — in peace and in power.