This podcast was completed by Vilma Fermin for Popular Music, Protest, and Social Justice at St. Joseph’s University, taught by Dr. Bill Wolff. 

In his new album, War and Leisure, Miguel enters a new realm of political activism that is far from his usual sexual and sultry vibes. In his song Now, he tackles immigration, a looming problem in the US

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The video to the song begins by displaying a sign, it reads “Welcome City of Adelanto: The City with Unlimited Possibilities. Adelanto is home to the Adelanto High Desert detention center which is the largest immigrant prison in the state, housing 2,000 family members predominantly from Mexico, Haiti, and Central America.

Here Miguel talks about the people who are being held in the detention centers, specifically in Adelanto

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Immigration detention is the practice of incarcerating immigrants that are awaiting their immigration status or potential deportation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, is the agency that runs the detention centers.

Immigrants in detention can be comprised of undocumented and documented immigrants. The immigrants in detention centers are often forced into harsh conditions of confinement and denied access to the outside world.

In the last three years, immigration has been at the forefront of political conversations and the media. In his song Now, he calls out the Trump administration and their actions towards immigration.

As Miguel details, Now was sparked from what a conversation between Miguel and Donald Trump would look like. The idea of what could happen if Trump stopped to listen to some of the stories of the detainees held all around the country.

So, before we go on, we will stop and listen to some of these stories. I spent 8 days in the cages, without a shower or brushing our teeth. They treated us so poorly like we were animals. Sometimes they would punish us and would not give us water or food. We slept thrown on the floor. They gave us aluminum foil as blankets.

04 migrant mom letters EXCERPT letter 18 excerpt

My son, I write these words with an immense hurt in my heart to have seen you separated from me. But I want you to know that I miss you very much. Every day I ask God that he bring us together once again and that they would never again separate us. You are the most beautiful thing God gave me. You son, I want you to know that I love you with all of my being and what I ask God the most is that we are together again. I love you son.

These are just two stories of detainees. There are thousands of detainees in detention centers around the nation.

In the video, one activist shares his own experience being detained in an immigration center, as his voice lays over the lyrics to the song.  

It is truly time that we talk about it. Our nation has had a history of “othering” others and reminding them that they do not belong in our “American” society. When the Irish came, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the list goes on. The sad reality is that we have dehumanized anyone we see as an outsider.

Phillipe Legrain in his book titled immigrants reads

We assume that it is normal and desirable (for people in rich countries) that people in poor countries should be confined within their national borders, just as medieval serfs were once tied to the land. We never stop to think that perhaps we would all be better off if the latter-day serfs were set free because they would be vastly more productive if they were not confined to their poor native lands*

We cannot keep people trapped in prisons, suppressing them from their own opportunity.

Is this the look of freedom? The freedom that so many have taken dangerous journeys for. The immigration system has been dominated by stereotypes of who immigrants are perceived to be. But no one knows who they really are.

The United States is one of the most developed countries and has been one of the leaders in pushing people out of its borders.

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“The City with Unlimited Possibilities” – Found when you drive into Adelanto, Californian

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – Found in The Statue of Liberty

“The land of the free and the home of the brave” –  Heard during The US National anthem

Each of these phrases presents a welcoming entrance into different parts of the United States and who we are. But that is not the identity that is portrayed if they gain entry legally or illegally into the nation.

Although our nation has had a history of degrading and dehumanizing immigrants, there are so many that are proud of their history as immigrants to this nation. So many that are proud to have a nation built on differences

An NPR poll found that 69% of Americans believe immigrants are an important part of American identity*

My name is Vilma and I waited to introduce myself because I wanted you to understand how the history of so many and my own are interwoven. I am a first-generation student, born to two immigrant parents, the first to attend college in my family.


My mom is my warrior, raised 6 kids as a single mother in a nation that rejected her for not speaking English. I am one of those stories and although I have been so fortunate to have a great upbringing, many families do not get the same opportunity.



Now calls us to act, now you know, each of us knows what’s happening to people around us who are not that different than each us. So, if we truly are the look of freedom, then it’s on us to stand up and speak out to change the things around us.

So why not now?