Elie Wiesel "Illegal" Quote Source

I’ve seen a lot of references in the debate on immigration lately to a quotation by Elie Wiesel: “No human being is illegal.” I’ve been unable to find the context in which he said that quote; I would guess he is referring to the immigration of Jews to Mandate Palestine after World War II (just given Wiesel’s life story), but I’m not sure. I’ve read a lot of Wiesel’s stuff and can’t remember seeing the quotation in there. Is anyone aware of when he said this (sources would be appreciated)?

This website http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/04/20/1084905/-No-Human-Being-is-Illegal says the quote was delivered to Maria Hinojosa (of Latino USA on NPR) while she and Wiesel were chatting in a green room at CNN, and that they were discussing immigration as a whole, not one nationality in particular. Another source is here: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/07/npr-anchor-ties-term-illegal-immigrant-to-nazi-germany/. Apparently Wiesel was speaking of undocumented immigrants in the US but in the context of Nazi Germany declaring Jews and Romani people and others “illegals.”

RearEchelon- I don’t think that what you found is quite the source of the quotation.
The Daily Kos article you linked to said the full quote was as such:

Whereas the article about the specific CNN anchor from RawStory said Wiesel said

The RawStory one from the CNN anchor is a similar theme, but not the vaunted “No human being is illegal” quote. I don’t know whether when Wiesel spoke to the CNN anchor if he was paraphrasing himself for earlier or laying the foundation for his later quotation. It is also possible that he never said exactly “No human being is illegal” and this is someone adapting is words.

Is there some Wiesel archivist who might have an authoritative answer?

Wiesel said many, many, many important things. But it is this one of Wiesel’s claims that has most profoundly shaped my daily life, politics, and work.

I heard “No human being is illegal” for the first time when Wiesel spoke at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m pretty sure this was 1987, but I am going to verify that. I wonder if anyone recorded the lecture, which was held in very large Bass Concert Hall. Wiesel won a Nobel Prize in 1986 and this was a very big deal lecture.

Wiesel’s claim was on my mind when it was time for PAPA (the Political Asylum Project of Austin/Proyecto de Asilo Politico de Austin, now American Gateways) to create its first t-shirt, a combination fundraiser and advertising campaign and public service announcement and, well, t-shirt for volunteers and friends to wear. I am pretty sure PAPA had a staff of one, a very poorly paid staff member that is, Nidia Salamanca, PAPA’s founding director who developed PAPA as a labor of love for well over a decade.

We adopted Wiesel’s statement for PAPA’s first t-shirt, which carried a photograph by Alan Pogue and the words “Ningun hermano ser ilegal” and “No human being is illegal.”

I don’t remember how the thinking behind the translation of “human being” as “hermano,” but translation is an art, not a science. And “hermano” does underline our connection. We are not strangers, even if we act like it so much of the time. We are family.


Let’s continue to work for a time when this statement is true, everywhere.