fresh voices from the front lines of change







Jeremiah Jaynes, a leader with Down Home North Carolina, a People’s Action affiliate, delivered these comments before fifty thousand people at the #FamiliesBelongTogether march in Washington, DC on June 30, 2018. Click on the image below to hear the speech.

My name is Jeremiah Jaynes, and I grew up in the country: back on a small farm in Waynesville, North Carolina. We grew tobacco and raised chickens in the Appalachian Mountains. I have five younger brothers and sisters, and my dad is a carpenter.

We moved around a lot as a child because it was hard to find a house that we could afford. If we couldn’t find a home to rent, we would camp in the woods. Sometimes, my only option for a bed was a door put across the front seat of the RV.

When I was a kid, I didn’t see the big picture: I used to think immigrants were a burden on the economy. I used to think it was us against them; but now I know that’s just a big con.

Immigrants are poor people, just like me - and pitting us against each other isn’t the solution.

My daughter Journi is my best friend. She loves to hear me tell the story of her nickname “Bear,” how when she was born she made a little growl instead of crying.

Many years ago, I was separated from Journi while serving a three-month sentence for driving my wife to work on a suspended license. While I was on the inside, I found out that Journi needed a major operation. She was only four years old, and they wouldn’t let me be there for her.

I couldn’t be at her bedside. I couldn’t hold her hand. That experience nearly broke me, and my heart breaks for the babies who are alone because of Trump’s heartless policy of separating families.

I want to speak to my community, in small towns all across the country, right now. Migrant families, plain and simple, are just like ours. I know who is really hurting my community, and it certainly isn't desperate families and toddlers in cages.

Trump’s policy is horribly racist. His policy of family detention and separation, and incarcerating families together doesn’t solve any part the crisis we are facing in Haywood County.

Detaining families is not going to bring back jobs, or give us the healthcare we need. Instead, he’s taking health care and food stamps away to give more to the richest of the rich.

We need to come together, now! Because we are all the same in the ways that matter. When we come together, things will start to get better for everyone. The economy will pick up, families will be together, everything will grow. We just have to have a little bit of vision and open-mindedness.

I’m a seventh generation resident of Haywood County, North Carolina, and I still live right where I grew up. But my own ancestors were migrants to the mountains all the same. I see myself in these families. I see myself in their humanity.

I’m here to say I stand with them, and I hope you will too.

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