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SIAN and ICIRR response to IL NAACP president Teresa Haley

The Springfield Immigrant Advocacy Network (SIAN) and our statewide coalition partner the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights reject the statements made by Illinois NAACP president Teresa Haley at a meeting in October, in which she referred to migrants in Chicago as criminals and “savages.”

Divisive rhetoric damages communities. It reinforces harmful stereotypes, which in turn hurt entire groups of people. True apologies must include strategies to begin dialogue, deliberate actions to repair relationships, and commitment to share accurate information. We don’t heal alone but in community. Our leaders need to work in solidarity to advocate and create better policies, and to make our cities better for all of us.

SIAN has worked diligently to advocate for immigrants and refugees who have arrived in Springfield within the last year, many of whom were originally sent to Chicago by bus from Texas. At SIAN, we know that the NAACP has a history of supporting immigrants and refugees in our country that we ought to honor and remember. We have worked with our NAACP siblings to fight injustice and racial profiling and to protect our immigrant youth, as we know most of our Illinois DACA recipients and migrants applying for asylum and refugee status are people of color coming mostly from the Global South.

We should not be calling groups of people rapists, inciting fear at migrants’ arrival, and calling cities to refuse Venezuelans seeking shelter happens when we still must contend with the supremacist, structural values of scarcity, silo-planning and thinking, and the predicament that marginalized communities must fight each other for a tiny piece of a pie. We know that immigrants, refugees, and other historically excluded communities live together at the margins. We have shared spaces and built families together while fighting injustice, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and oppression. When we lift one group, when we support and elevate communities, we must also lift up our neighbors and other marginalized peoples.

SIAN serves immigrants and refugees, children and families, who have come to Illinois after surviving life-threatening living conditions as well as environmental, economic, and political turmoil. In a welcoming state like Illinois, we encourage our organizations, leaders, and institutions to serve immigrants and refugees with compassion, understanding, respect, and attention to the many intersections of being and experience of marginalization our communities encounter.

We need to understand and identify a manufactured crisis when we see it. This moment of Illinois being targeted for our welcoming values is a perfect example of how oppression works against immigrants and people of color.  When the humanity, safety, and survival of children and families are at stake, we need to stop seeing ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ We instead need to see communities as whole, fully human, deserving of our respect and assistance–and our policies have to reflect this. We hope that our historical partners at NAACP chapters across the state join us in this analysis as we strive to move forward together.

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