Several hundred immigrant children remain in the custody of the United States government, separated from their parents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department have escalated the war on immigrants by deciding domestic violence and gang violence are no reason to grant individuals asylum. The family of a child that died shortly after she was released from the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed a $40 million lawsuit.
To challenge the anti-immigrant policies of the government under President Donald Trump, a collective of artists compiled songs for an album called “Never Illegal.”
“Never Illegal” is a “collective statement from artists across the U.S. that we are better than the events that are taking place at the Mexican border. No human being is never illegal, and no child should ever be separated from their loving parents,” the album’s Bandcamp page states.
It notes all proceeds from the album will be donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit that “promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in central and south Texas.”
Primarily, the songs on the album were recorded prior to the project and donated for the compilation by artists. Which means they may not have been protest songs before they were included, however, their inclusion effectively politicizes the songs.
Consider “Step Outside” by Screaming Females. The rousing track is from their February album, “All At Once.” It is subtle and abstract for the most part. Yet, in the context of protest against a vicious deportation regime, the following lyrics take on a deeper meaning: “I’m sick with worry just knowing when you step outside you won’t be safe.”
Charlotte band Trash Room contributed a punk song called “Silence Equals Defeat.” Bassist Angel Beeson said the song “was written the current administration in mind, and it reflects [the band’s] stance on how immigrants are being treated in our country.”
The 2012 song, “Move Along,” is an invigorating protest anthem from the indigenous duo, Sihasin. Jeneda and Clayson Benally of Blackfire are from the Navajo (Dine’) Nation in northern Arizona. Their name is a Dine’ word that means “to think with hope and assurance.” It applies to action and being confident and experienced enough to adapt to struggles.
A warrior chant and driving rhythm propels the song, as Sihasin sings, “How many walls must we overcome before we come to our senses?” They add, “We’re going to tear down these fences.”
One verse mentions “racist laws,” and declares, “They build the wall, and no human being is illegal. We’re going to tear down the wall brick by brick, and then we’ll all be equal.”
Remarkably, the song is from six years ago and well before Trump’s administration, making it clear that there are systemic problems of injustice at play when it comes to mass deportation.
A banner at the top of the “Never Illegal” project’s Bandcamp page says, “Abolish ICE.”
Lara Americo, a musician, artist, and activist, spearheaded production of the compilation.
“My mother was an immigrant, and if she had come here when Trump was in office, she might have been in the same situation, and I might have been stuck in some ICE detention center [as a child],” Americo, whose mother is from Mexico, told Creative Loafing. “I just thought, ‘That could have been me!’ And I needed to do something.”
The album will hopefully help RAICES in their efforts to reunify families and challenge the detention of asylum-seeking immigrants.
Listen to “Move Along”: