Educating the Mayorals on “Illegal”

Here’s a post from David Neiwart at Crooks and Liars regarding the term thrown around by the right (and in some Democratic circles and even in the “liberal” blogosphere):  Illegal; as in illegal immigrant or illegal alien.

And the folks at Fox were all over this angle. Notably, they kept referring to these immigrants as “illegals”. Illegals, illegals, illegals — it was running on the chryon and out of their mouths.

There’s a reason the National Association of Hispanic Journalists urges their colleagues to avoid dehumanizing terms like “illegals”:

The term criminalizes the person rather than the actual act of illegally entering or residing in the United States without federal documents. Terms such as illegal alien or illegal immigrant can often be used pejoratively in common parlance and can pack a powerful emotional wallop for those on the receiving end.

Moreover, as Eric Haas at the Rockridge Institute points out, it’s a grossly misleading phrase — and one that reveals a powerful xenophobia:

But the phrase “illegal immigrant” is misleading. There’s a grain of truth, but the emphasis is only selectively applied — it’s misapplied — we don’t call speeders “illegal drivers” or people who jaywalk “illegals.” And that selective application to immigrants is harmful.

Most people don’t understand that “illegal immigration” is in fact only a civil misdemeanor — which, as legal infractions go, places it on the same scale as speeding or illegal parking. Instead, we’ve managed to work it up in our minds that being undocumented in the United States is a big-time crime, and thus the undocumented are criminals.

Next time I hear a Mayoral use the term and I’m in the room, I’m calling them out!

Of course, it would help if the leader of the free world, President Barack Hussein Obama, would stop using it. Perhaps the trend needs to begin locally.

Calling them “illegals” and “illegal immigrants” is a noxiously dehumanizing habit — one that only encourages hatefulness and violence against Latinos. It would always help, as Marisa Trevino at Latina Lista points out, if President Obama himself would stop using it.

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