On Sunday afternoon Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) was part of the panel for a legislative workshop titled “Engaging Congress: the NAACP’s Legislative Agenda to Achieve One Nation, One Dream”. Representative Jackson-Lee spoke on the tea party movement and immigration reform among other issues:
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee: ….And I thank you professor very much. I’m going to be engaging you with those very powerful numbers that you have offered on what the tea party recognizes, uh, or is recognized as. Might I add my own P.S.? All those who wore sheets a long time ago have now lifted them off and started wearing [applause], uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, I am part of the tea party. Don’t you be fooled. [voices: “That’s right.”, applause] Those who used to wear sheets are now being able to walk down the aisle and speak as a patriot because you will not speak loudly about the lack of integrity of this movement. Don’t let anybody tell you that those who spit on us as we were walking to vote on a health care bill for all of America or those who said Congresswoman Jackson-Lee’s braids were too tight in her hair had anything to do with justice and equality and empowerment of the American people. Don’t let them fool you on that [applause]….
….But let me just say this. We have had a challenging time with African-Americans on the question of immigration. As it first begun, uh, it looked as if it was a job killer bill for all of you. It looked as if these were folk who were interlopers who were attempting to move in on your territory. My brothers and sisters, once they begin to divide us [voices: “That’s right.”], once they begin to point out this one and that one [voices: “Yes.”], for many of you don’t realize that immigrants are Haitians, they are Liberians, they’re Nigerians, and they come to this nation as we did, first in the bottom of a belly of slave boat, to make for a greater time. Wouldn’t it be better if we linked arms with them to find the justice that is [inaudible] our people. [applause]….
….Immigration reform is not something we should be frightened about. We should grab it and make it ours and make it work for us as it works for those who are seeking a better life. Now let me just pose why you should look to this, uh, if you can’t bring yourself to, uh, use the terminology civil rights, uh, then use the terminology human rights and human dignity. For I would compare two disparate situations which will hopefully turn the light bulb on – Arizona, there might be some of our constituents saying, go ahead, right on. But if you understand what the Arizona law says, and thank you NAACP, it says that if you as a police officer, police state that we are fighting against [voices: “Yes.” “That’s right.”], all the places that we look askance and say oh my goodness, look what they’re doing in Sudan. But if you are in Arizona the police officer has a right, if they have reasonable suspicion, and I am strong supporter of law enforcement, I’m on the Judiciary, I want them to be treated fairly, but every human being has the ability to have human error….so if they have reasonable suspicion, uh, masterful attorney, they can stop you, they can ask you papers that you left at home because you were going to Seven Eleven, they can arrest you criminally and immigration in the United States is a civil responsibility, it is not a criminal responsibility unless you are someone who perpetrated a criminal act, but they can arrest you criminally, put you in jail and throw you out of the country….
[Discussion of New York’s “stop and frisk” procedure affecting a disproportionate percentage of minorities.]….
….Do you see where I’m coming from when you talk about immigration reform? That we can’t push any of this off because the tea party and others will say that is great, we want to divide you along those lines.
I remember very, uh, conspicuously going out, uh, on the, uh, uh, veranda or going out on the grounds of the Congress on that Sunday when we voted on the health care bill to engage these wonderful Americans. And I really mean that I was sincerely trying to glean from them what their angst was. And there were a few sprinkled people of color. Of course, is a democracy and they’re allowed to be there. The only thing I could get from them in responding to my question of do you understand what the bill was, was the flipping of the bird. You all understand what the bird is? [voice: “Right.”] Everybody got to understand what the bird is. All right. Nobody understands what the bird, some do. But, in any event, they were [laughter], Pastor, [voice: “I understand.”] that is the only thing that I could get. That was, uh, some are still looking dumbfounded, the finger, uh, was the only thing that I could get. [laughter] Um, and I could not get anyone to communicate why they were so angry about this health care bill which was going to provide them with an opportunity.
I say this to say, that when you look at immigration, look at the fine line. It is the underpinnings of divisiveness, it is the underpinnings of seeking to lock up people for their distinction, and it is the underpinnings of confusion, uh, and, uh, if you will, uh, abject unfairness….
….Many times, uh, the NAACP will be challenged and say what are they in this business for? Reverend, this is not, uh, a civil rights issue. [voice: “That’s right.”] Don’t let anybody tell you what your business is. [applause, voices: “That’s right.”] Don’t let anybody tell the NAACP [applause] what your business is about. [applause]….
And on the agenda of the convention:
At the organization’s national convention this week, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will propose a resolution “condemning racism within the tea party movement.” The resolution calls upon “all people of good will to repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.” NAACP leaders said the resolution was “necessary” to make people “seriously” consider what leaders “believe is a racist element within the tea party movement.” Tea Party leaders, however, vehemently deny allegations of racism and call the proposed resolution “unfair”….”