Land of the free and home of the brave. Liberty and justice for all. Let freedom ring.
One thing about Americans: we love freedom. A commitment to freedom and liberty is a bedrock of our cultural identity, across parties and regions, whether you like monster trucks or matcha lattes, from local government to the highest court in the land.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has often fallen short on that commitment, from its founding on the genocide of Indigenous populations and on the backs on enslaved Africans to our harmful criminal justice and immigration systems. Yet there have always been American people unwilling to let this country fall short; people who believe so deeply in the core values of freedom and equality that they fight to hold this country accountable to its ideals.
The period from Juneteenth to the Fourth of July is a powerful period to reflect on the freedom struggles that define this country. On the Fourth of July we celebrate the 1776 adoption of the Declaration of Independence. On Juneteenth we celebrate the day the most basic freedoms were extended to Black people enslaved in this country and we mourn the nearly 100 years in between. June is also Immigrant Heritage Month, a time when we celebrate immigrants while honoring the struggles that immigrants and their descendants–which includes most of us!– have overcome to travel here, to stay here and to contribute so richly to our shared history and culture.
When America is moving towards fulfilling the best of our promises, we are a country moving towards more freedom and justice. For too long, our broken immigration and criminal justice systems have locked too many people out from the American dream and prevented us from reaching our full potential. Policies that perpetuate mass incarceration and put harsh restrictions on immigration destabilize families and communities and hurt us a country.
This year, from Juneteenth to the Fourth of July, FWD.us celebrates freedom and honors those carrying on the American legacy of everyday people pursuing the promise of liberty and justice for all.
We recently performed national polling showing that Americans see and support the urgent need for further improvements to our criminal justice systems: nearly 80% support criminal justice reform and 70% believe it is important to reduce the number of people in jail and prison. Our newest I Stand With Immigrants Initiative report “Moving the Culture, Shaping Our Future” shows how ten years of cultural organizing contributed to the fact that 7 in 10 Americans believe that immigrants strengthen the county–an increase from less than half the population just ten years ago. And roughly 8 in 10 Americans are in favor of creating legal pathways for undocumented immigrants to receive protections.
We celebrate recent reforms to our criminal justice and immigration systems that have expanded freedom and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of people. In NY, reforms to the bail system meant that individuals spent nearly 2 million additional nights at home instead of in jail, and families saved $104 million in bail costs. Across the country, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has meant that over 800,000 young people in the U.S. have had the freedom to pursue education and employment, and to build families and lives in the country they call home.
We have a long way to go, but we have much to celebrate. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more stories of success and freedom. To start off, and in honor of Father’s Day, we are honored to share the story of what freedom means to one father who raised 6 children while incarcerated. Join us this summer in #CelebratingFreedom for all.