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Bannish the term "illegal immigrant"?

Have you seen this?

Language like "illegal immigrant" seen as a challenge during immigration debate

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Thu April 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activists claim using "illegal" to define people can dehumanize them
  • Others argue it's the right word for the right description
  • Word choice -- as well as policy -- is under scrutiny in the immigration debate
  • And there's no obvious partisan divide

(CNN) -- There's the N-word and the F-word -- euphemisms for offensive terms many know but which most of us would never consider using in polite company. Now, there's another word activists are hoping to banish from public discussion -- "illegal" as in "illegal immigrant."

So far the campaign to "Drop the I-word" has had some limited success but that could change with immigration overhaul high on the president's to-do list and with both sides plotting strategies and how to get their point across.

Opponents of the term "illegal immigrant" find various things wrong with it: they say it's technically wrong, offensive and is used to apply to people who may not even want to stay in the United States permanently so they're not true "immigrants."

The term "illegal immigrant" is an oxymoron said Jonathan Rosa, an assistant professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

"It isn't a legal concept which is why you don't hear judges and lawyers using this terminology in the law. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines immigrants as people who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence," said Rosa, "There's no such thing as an 'illegal immigrant' because if you are an immigrant, you're already legal."

But it's much more than grammar -- as in all arguments, the very words we choose can have an impact. Think of pro-life and pro-choice in the debate over abortion, or the absence we see now about people calling for "gun control" in favor of "gun violence prevention."

Journalist turned immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas, a supporter of the "Drop the I-Word" campaign, argues that using the term "illegal immigrant" to describe people is a racially charged tactic that skews the immigration debate and fuels hate and violence.

Vargas, who was sent from the Philippines as a child to join his grandparents in California, told a recent Senate Judiciary Committeehearing on immigration how he felt when he is called "illegal."

"I am the only one in my extended family of 25 Americans who is undocumented," he said, "When you inaccurately call me 'illegal,' you're not only dehumanizing me, you're offending them. No human being is illegal."

Vargas, who "came out" as an undocumented immigrant in a June 2011 essay in The New York Times Magazine, helped support the"Drop the I-Word" campaign to eliminate what it calls a "dehumanizing slur" from general use.

The argument is that the word "illegal" becomes dehumanizing when it brands an entire person, rather than an action they have taken. Opponents prefer a more specific word like "undocumented" be applied if it's needed at all.

CNN contributor Charles Garcia summed his view in a column last year: "In this country, there is still a presumption of innocence that requires a jury to convict someone of a crime. If you don't pay your taxes, are you an illegal? What if you get a speeding ticket? A murder conviction? No. You're still not an illegal. Even alleged terrorists and child molesters aren't labeled illegals."

"By becoming judge, jury and executioner, you dehumanize the individual and generate animosity toward them," Garcia wrote for CNN.

There isn't a clear partisan divide on this. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who supports updating immigration laws, tends to use the word "undocumented." But his Democratic colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer, who with Rubio and six others have authored new immigration legislation plans, called undocumented immigrants "illegals" on a recent appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"Senator Schumer, even Senator Marco Rubio is using 'undocumented' these days. Get with the program," Latino Rebels posted on their site, "and let us know when you issue your statement explaining your insensitivity."

"There is certainly a more widespread awareness that terminology is contentious and part of the overall political battle for immigration reform," said Lina Newton, Ph.D. associate professor of Political Science at Hunter College and author of Illegal, Alien, or Immigrant: The Politics of Immigration Reform.

Newton said Rubio's use of "undocumented" instead of "illegal" was a way to distinguish himself and part ways with conservative Republicans on the subject.

"Regardless of where editors and reporters stand, public officials stand, I would say that people that are aware that these terms, like "illegals", "illegal immigrants" or "undocumented" are politically-laden," explained Newton, "How you use them will send a strong signal about where you stand politically on the issue."

That was widely seen to be the case with Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He talked of "illegals" and promoting "self-deportation" in a way that was seen as off-putting to Latino voters, who favored President Obama over Romney by 71% to 27%.

Of course undocumented immigrants cannot vote, but many have close ties with Latino citizens, the Pew Research Hispanic Center found, who see deportation and rights for people brought to this country as children as a personal issue.

But there isn't agreement among all Latinos.

Ruben Navarrette, a contributor to CNN.com who writes frequently on immigration and issues affecting Latinos, voluched for the use of the "illegal" terminology.

"Immigration law is based in civil law, and that's why those who break it get deported and not imprisoned," he wrote, "But these people are still lawbreakers, and -- by definition -- illegal immigrants."

"The phrase is accurate. It's the shoe that fits. It's reality. And, as is often the case with reality, it's hard for some people to accept."

There are certainly many who refuse to accept the term "illegal", and who are fighting it.

It's not only unfair, it can be dangerous if it creates a racial stereotype that all Hispanics in the United States are view as "illegal" or lesser, the advocates behind "Drop the I-Word" say.

FBI statistics show hate crimes against Latinos made up 66% of the violence based on ethnicity, up from 45% in 2009. Marcelo Lucero, a 37-year-old Ecuadoran immigrant, became a victim of such a hate crime in 2008 when he was stabbed to death on Long Island by a group of teens who were quoted as saying, "Let's go find some Mexicans to f--- up."

Words matter and can help to form opinions. A national survey of non-Latinos last year by Latino Decisions and the National Hispanic Media Coalition found far more negative views of Latinos when they were described as "illegal" than when the "undocumented" label was applied.

And that explains why campaigns like "Drop the I-word" target mass media organizations who speak to millions of people. And why they're celebrating this week after the Associated Press news agency that supplies stories to newspapers, websites and organizations around the world announced it is changing its policy.

The AP had considered "illegal immigrant" as the best way to describe someone in a country without permission, but rewrote its style book in what it said was a broader effort to cut out labels. It will now tell users "'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally."

The New York Times -- the other main focus of Drop the I-word advocates -- is also reconsidering its language.

Other media outlets, including CNN, NBC News, The Huffington Post, ABC News/Univision, and Fox News Latino, already have a different lexicon.

CNN prefers the term "undocumented immigrant" when referring to an individual. The network doesn't use the terms "illegal" or "illegals" as nouns but considers it fine to use the term "illegal immigration" to discuss the issue.

Whether or not language in this instance will lead to social change of course remains to be seen. One advocacy group, Americans for Legal Immigration or ALIPAC, said it would "compensate" for AP's change by now using "illegal invaders" instead of "illegal immigrants" in its releases -- an indication perhaps that the issue of immigration remains contentious in the United States, the world's top destination for immigrants and where 13% of us were born outside the country.

by on Apr. 4, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Replies (21-30):
AllofFive19
by Bronze Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM
1 mom liked this

It's NOT a slur. Changing the term "Illegal Immigrant" to "Undocumented Immmigrant" doesn't change a single thing. It still means they are not here legally. It doesn't change people's views towards them. It'd like changing the word spinach. Some people will still not like it, no matter what you call it.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

A slur is a slur. Is one slur more offensive than the other? Absolutely. But they are both slurs.

Her claim was, "It's accurate". And many people used the N-word to define people who are black. Making it accurate. It doesn't change the fact that it is a slur.

Though reading the article. That argument might not even make sense:

brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:51 PM


It does change things. Words are important. And it is a slur.

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. To be an immigrant means you are here legally. So calling someone an illegal immigrant is to say they are here illegally legally.

It's a derogatory term, especially when people cut the word immigrant out completely like we have seen done (In this very forum and topic).

Words are important. If you call someone an illegal immigrant or an illegal. People attach the word illegal with the people involved. They refer to them as criminals.

If someone said, "Should we allow criminals into our country easier"? Most people would say no.

But if someone said, "If there a family who wants a better life for themselves should we allow them to move here?"

The narrative changes completely.  Many people would agree with the second claim. I don't know anyone who would agree with the first claim.

If they snuck in. Does that mean they are here illegally? Absolutely. But they are still people.

Calling them illegal dehumanizes them and connects an negative connotation to them.

Quoting AllofFive19:

It's NOT a slur. Changing the term "Illegal Immigrant" to "Undocumented Immmigrant" doesn't change a single thing. It still means they are not here legally. It doesn't change people's views towards them. It'd like changing the word spinach. Some people will still not like it, no matter what you call it.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

A slur is a slur. Is one slur more offensive than the other? Absolutely. But they are both slurs.

Her claim was, "It's accurate". And many people used the N-word to define people who are black. Making it accurate. It doesn't change the fact that it is a slur.

Though reading the article. That argument might not even make sense:



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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

Citygirlk
by Gold Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:52 PM
1 mom liked this

Lol we still get called illegal.

Quoting dustinsmom1:

If you are here illegally, you are an illegal. If you don't want to be called an illegal, come here legally.


AllofFive19
by Bronze Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Only if you want it too. So what happens if we DO change the term, and people start a negative connection with that word (because a lot of them will). They'll want a new word. That will attract negative attention, and then they'll want a new word again.

Changing the term "illegal" (not many people use "illegal immigrant", just "illegal") will not change a thing. Now, IF they do a whole immigration reform ALONG with the name change, THEN you will see results. Until then it's still calling an apple an apple.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

It does change things. Words are important. And it is a slur.

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. To be an immigrant means you are here legally. So calling someone an illegal immigrant is to say they are here illegally legally.

It's a derogatory term, especially when people cut the word immigrant out completely like we have seen done (In this very forum and topic).

Words are important. If you call someone an illegal immigrant or an illegal. People attach the word illegal with the people involved. They refer to them as criminals.

If someone said, "Should we allow criminals into our country easier"? Most people would say no.

But if someone said, "If there a family who wants a better life for themselves should we allow them to move here?"

The narrative changes completely.  Many people would agree with the second claim. I don't know anyone who would agree with the first claim.

If they snuck in. Does that mean they are here illegally? Absolutely. But they are still people.

Calling them illegal dehumanizes them and connects an negative connotation to them.

Quoting AllofFive19:

It's NOT a slur. Changing the term "Illegal Immigrant" to "Undocumented Immmigrant" doesn't change a single thing. It still means they are not here legally. It doesn't change people's views towards them. It'd like changing the word spinach. Some people will still not like it, no matter what you call it.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

A slur is a slur. Is one slur more offensive than the other? Absolutely. But they are both slurs.

Her claim was, "It's accurate". And many people used the N-word to define people who are black. Making it accurate. It doesn't change the fact that it is a slur.

Though reading the article. That argument might not even make sense:


lizzielouaf
by Gold Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM
3 moms liked this

Sorry but this is a particular set of PC circumstances I have zero sympathy for. My parents were LEGAL immigrants and had to work their asses off to become citizens, they even only knew the bare minimum English. There IS a legal way to immigrate to the US....do it. It took my parents a good number of years to attain citzenship and a lot of work, even having to go back to their home country several times leaving their family behind, to keep things legal. It's hard work...do it, get over it, don't like it? Go back. Illegal immigrants don't like the verbage "illegal immigrant"? Meh. 


Quoting brookiecookie87:

Quoting dustinsmom1:

If you are here illegally, you are an illegal. If you don't want to be called an illegal, come here legally.

What about the people who cannot come here legally but still want a better life for their kids, and family?

Should they a) Just say screw it and live whatever horrible life that is worse than being labeled, "illegal"?
Or b) Try to provide the best life they can for their family?

If it puts it in perspective. What would you be willing to do for your family?

And I know you will fall back on the crutch arguement of, "It's illegal so they are illegal" except lots of people  don't believe it should be illegal for them to come here. So while accurate. They are an illegal immigrant. It is still dehumanizing to refer to someone as an illegal person.

Lots of these people are hard working people. It's understandable that they would not want to be dehumanized. It makes it harder to get changes to immigrantion laws when people view them all as criminals.



brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 12:59 PM


The word illegal wasn't given a negative connotation because of the people sneaking over. If we did call them undocumented immigrants (Or whatever term would apply) that would be the term.

No one associates undocumented with criminals. They do associate illegal with criminals.

I have seen many people on these message boards refer to them as criminals as well.

And it's not calling an apple an apple. It would be like calling an apple a rotten apple. And then people saying, "Let's drop or change the word rotten to something else".

It would very much change the narrative. I don't know anyone who would want to bring rotten apples to their community. I know many people who would be okay with bringing in apples though.

Quoting AllofFive19:

Only if you want it too. So what happens if we DO change the term, and people start a negative connection with that word (because a lot of them will). They'll want a new word. That will attract negative attention, and then they'll want a new word again.

Changing the term "illegal" (not many people use "illegal immigrant", just "illegal") will not change a thing. Now, IF they do a whole immigration reform ALONG with the name change, THEN you will see results. Until then it's still calling an apple an apple.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

It does change things. Words are important. And it is a slur.

There is no such thing as an illegal immigrant. To be an immigrant means you are here legally. So calling someone an illegal immigrant is to say they are here illegally legally.

It's a derogatory term, especially when people cut the word immigrant out completely like we have seen done (In this very forum and topic).

Words are important. If you call someone an illegal immigrant or an illegal. People attach the word illegal with the people involved. They refer to them as criminals.

If someone said, "Should we allow criminals into our country easier"? Most people would say no.

But if someone said, "If there a family who wants a better life for themselves should we allow them to move here?"

The narrative changes completely.  Many people would agree with the second claim. I don't know anyone who would agree with the first claim.

If they snuck in. Does that mean they are here illegally? Absolutely. But they are still people.

Calling them illegal dehumanizes them and connects an negative connotation to them.

Quoting AllofFive19:

It's NOT a slur. Changing the term "Illegal Immigrant" to "Undocumented Immmigrant" doesn't change a single thing. It still means they are not here legally. It doesn't change people's views towards them. It'd like changing the word spinach. Some people will still not like it, no matter what you call it.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

A slur is a slur. Is one slur more offensive than the other? Absolutely. But they are both slurs.

Her claim was, "It's accurate". And many people used the N-word to define people who are black. Making it accurate. It doesn't change the fact that it is a slur.

Though reading the article. That argument might not even make sense:




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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

DestinyHLewis
by Destiny on Apr. 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM
3 moms liked this


I don't see it as a slur. They immigrated to this country. Meaning they moved here, set up residence, a life, obtained jobs, but illegally. Therefore term is accurate. "Illegal immigrants " 

Calling someone a "nigger" is a totally different situation and concept. It is meant as a slur and insult. It is not a fact based word. Nigger means "ignorant" which is clearly baseless when used to describe a person. Illegal immigrant perfectly describes their status in this country. They immigrated under illegal terms. It's not a slur. 

Regardless of what the original etymology of the word "nigger" is said to be, the word we are familiar with is used to denote ignorance, being sub par, and not equal, less than human. Calling someone an illegal immigrant simply states the facts under which they came here. Not from this country, and not legally. It isn't a slur or racial term against a race of people simply because of their color. It can denote anyone here who shouldn't be here according to our laws. Therein lies the difference. 

Quoting brookiecookie87:

A slur is a slur. Is one slur more offensive than the other? Absolutely. But they are both slurs.

Her claim was, "It's accurate". And many people used the N-word to define people who are black. Making it accurate. It doesn't change the fact that it is a slur.

Though reading the article. That argument might not even make sense:

Quote:


"It isn't a legal concept which is why you don't hear judges and lawyers using this terminology in the law. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines immigrants as people who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence," said Rosa, "There's no such thing as an 'illegal immigrant' because if you are an immigrant, you're already legal."


Quoting DestinyHLewis:


I am positive I didn't just see you compare people calling black people "nigger" to calling illegal's, illegal immigrants. Are you joking? Wow. That's a stretch even for you Brooke. Wow. 

Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are making assumptions. I never said we should do anything so their feelings won't get hurt. Don't make up lies.

That's like saying. I call them a nigger because they are black. Sure. Accurate. Still a slur. Sure they are here illegally. That doesn't define who they are though and lots of people use it that way. You exemplify that.

Quoting talia-mom:

And I can't help it if you want to coddle criminals so their feelings don't get hurt.

They are here illegally. That makes them illegal.
Quoting brookiecookie87:


If you don't understand the importance of words. That's on you. Words can completely change the narrative of a story and events.


Quoting talia-mom:

Wouldn't whine about being called what I am. That is what I would do.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

What about the people who cannot come here legally but still want a better life for their kids, and family?

Should they a) Just say screw it and live whatever horrible life that is worse than being labeled, "illegal"?
Or b) Try to provide the best life they can for their family?

If it puts it in perspective. What would you be willing to do for your family?

And I know you will fall back on the crutch arguement of, "It's illegal so they are illegal" except lots of people  don't believe it should be illegal for them to come here.

Lots of these people are hard working people.









redbutterfly666
by Bronze Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM

ok even i find this one stupid O.o

brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Your parents sound lucky.

What about the people who don't have the means to move back and forth several times? What about the people who are trying to actively escape the cartel filled cities where violence is everywhere?

No one said the current method isn't possible. Just that it is not possible for everyone, and in some cases waiting several years could mean the death of someone in their family. For people in these situations where they won't have the money to do it legally and/or don't have the time to wait.

They have to do what they feel is right for their family.

Quoting lizzielouaf:

Sorry but this is a particular set of PC circumstances I have zero sympathy for. My parents were LEGAL immigrants and had to work their asses off to become citizens, they even only knew the bare minimum English. There IS a legal way to immigrate to the US....do it. It took my parents a good number of years to attain citzenship and a lot of work, even having to go back to their home country several times leaving their family behind, to keep things legal. It's hard work...do it, get over it, don't like it? Go back. Illegal immigrants don't like the verbage "illegal immigrant"? Meh. 


Quoting brookiecookie87:

Quoting dustinsmom1:

If you are here illegally, you are an illegal. If you don't want to be called an illegal, come here legally.

What about the people who cannot come here legally but still want a better life for their kids, and family?

Should they a) Just say screw it and live whatever horrible life that is worse than being labeled, "illegal"?
Or b) Try to provide the best life they can for their family?

If it puts it in perspective. What would you be willing to do for your family?

And I know you will fall back on the crutch arguement of, "It's illegal so they are illegal" except lots of people  don't believe it should be illegal for them to come here. So while accurate. They are an illegal immigrant. It is still dehumanizing to refer to someone as an illegal person.

Lots of these people are hard working people. It's understandable that they would not want to be dehumanized. It makes it harder to get changes to immigrantion laws when people view them all as criminals.





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If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess

terpmama
by Silver Member on Apr. 4, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Would you call someone who sold drugs an "illegal druggie" 

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