Thursday, December 6, 2007

"Illegal" Is Never a Noun

From Eric Haas of The Rockridge Institute comes this:

On the issue of immigration, politicians and much of the mainstream media are playing with our minds. By repeating the phrase "illegal immigrants," they're creating a misleading stereotype. It's inaccurate. And, it's distracting us from the real issue -- economic exploitation of all low-wage workers in the United States.

The Republicans did it in their YouTube debate on CNN. In the first 30 minutes, the Republicans repeatedly used the term "illegal immigrant" and spent the time sparring over which of them could treat them more harshly. Were the painters who worked on Romney's house and the low-wage workers in Giuliani's New York City really such a grave threat to America

CNN's John King used the term, too. And so did CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown in the most recent Democratic debate in Las Vegas. And, some of the Democratic candidates also used it, though Kucinich specifically refused ("There are no illegal human beings"). But he's in the minority. The term is everywhere in the press. You can find it in the Washington Post and in the New York Times, as well as the doubly derogatory term "illegal alien" in the Washington Times. They've all got "illegal" on the brain.

Branding people with the Scarlet "I" creates a fearful stigma. The vast majority of immigrants, whatever their legal status, are law-abiding members of society. Yet, the "illegal" description is so pervasive that it has us thinking about punishment and revenge, instead of solutions to the real problem -- the economic exploitation of people, both immigrant and native-born.

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and from Roberto Lovato, this:

The focus of this week’s Republican debate on immigration makes one thing clear: We have entered the age of selective humanity. In other words, some humans are more human than others. Nowhere in the debate talk of “illegal aliens” and “sanctuary mansions” or who or what is “American” was there any notion that the undocumented were humans.

As a result, much of the “debate” around immigration has been and continues to be defined by the rage of the anti-immigrant right, a right that champions and humanizes those that shoot and jail migrants instead of focusing on the migrants themselves – who are stripped of anything beyond the parasitic, criminal image that makes for “fiery” television head-butting. Such a climate does not look at the violence and abuse suffered by migrants. It does not ascribe humanity to them.

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yave said...

It looks like there is a new catchphrase for DHS to hang its hat on: "fugitive aliens."

Just as illegal, but twice as scary!

janna said...

How about "fugitive philanthropist?"
Actually, I tend to think of them as refugees, since they tend to be fleeing either poverty, violence, or a combination of things that makes their lives otherwise unlivable.

Anonymous said...

The term "fugitive aliens" is no chatchphrase but a correct descriptipon of aliens who have been ordered deported and then fled to avoid compliance with the order.

Anonymous said...

Wow, really, really good article.