No One Is Illegal

The clouds gather in your forests
Drift to my desert town
And I think of far-off places
As the rain is coming down
You’re bent down in the fields
Picking fruit there from the vine
And it ends up on my table
As it moves on down the line

The moon shines brightly in the night sky
The river flows from south to north
With the changing of the seasons
The birds migrate back and forth
But they say that you can’t come here
Not in the light of day
Somebody has got plans for you
Starve at home or hide away

Will we open up the borders
Tear down the prison walls
Declare that no one is illegal
Watch the giant as it falls

So much travels across these borders
So much is bought and sold
One way goes the gunships
The other comes the gold
Free trade is like a needle
Drawing blood straight from your heart
And the border’s like a prison
Keeping friends apart


Hear the stockholders cheering
The world’s getting smaller
Hear the drowning child crying
“Why are the fences growing taller”
Some whisper in the shadows
While others count the dollars
Some have suits and ties
Others, chains and collars


May the fortress walls come down
May we meet our sisters and our brothers
Stand arm and arm there in the daylight
No longer fighting one another
Will we stand together
For therein lies our might
Will we understand these words
“Workers of the world unite”


“No One is Illegal” appears on Living in These Times CD (2001), and on the album, Live in Rostrevor (2016).

I don’t remember where I first heard the slogan, no one is illegal, but it may have been in Hamburg, Germany (kein mensch ist illegal).  It’s a popular phrase on the left there and elsewhere.  What particularly prompted the writing of this song was when I marched with thousands of folks from Latin America in New York City on May 1, 2000 (one of the last times I’ve been in the US for the 1st of May).  The most popular sign that marchers had read, in English, “workers of the world, unite.”  Pretty much summed it all up, in terms of what the march was really about, and why this struggle should be supported by everybody with any sense, globally.