A March 14 rally for the New York Dream Act in Albany, New York.
By TED HESSON
Yesterday, we posted the thoughts of 10 people without papers about what term the media should us when referring to people in the U.S. without authorization.
We’ve received hundreds of responses from undocumented immigrants and their advocates, and we’ll be posting them on Tumblr over the next few days.
Here’s the first set:
Eric, lives in Gainesville, Florida, born in Mexico
Undocumented: “It respects my humanity.”
Nataly, lives in New York, born in Ecuador
Undocumented American: “I am an American, only without the proper documentation.”
Wendolyne, lives in Elmont, New York, born in Peru
I personally prefer the term undocumented immigrant. This is because using the term “illegal” to describe a human being only justifies and promotes hate and discrimination unto those who do not have authorization to be here. Illegal is such a derogatory term and almost instantly a negative thought surfaces in one’s mind. At least for me, the word illegal leads me to think of those immigrants who are drug dealers, smugglers, gang members, etc. But then I think about the young people and parents who only wanted a better life for their children and everything becomes clear again. However, in that moment when I process the word “illegal” I forget the humane side of immigration and only think about the bad. This is not good. It’s almost like a subtle way to shift one’s mind in regards to immigration.
Vanessa, lives in Miami, Florida, born in Venezuela
Undocumented: “The term illegal is very demeaning and it takes away the personhood of whom is being addressed. It is today’s equivalent of calling a black person n——-.”
Julio, lives in Miami, Florida, born in Honduras
Inmigrante indocumentado: “Ningún ser humano es ilegal. El hecho de cruzar la frontera no te quita lo humano.”
Eleni, lives in New York, born in Greece
Immigrants without proper government documentation: “Because it accurately describes their immigration status of a wide range of cases, while illegal doesn’t.”
Roberto, lives in Seattle, born in Mexico
Undocumented immigrant: “It is less offensive, and more politically correct.”
Heather, lives in Fairfield, Connecticut, born in the U.S.
Illegal immigrant: “Because they immigrated illegally. Call a spade a spade.”
Ernesto, lives in Flowery Branch, Georgia, born in Mexico
Undocumented immigrant: “It’s not degrading.”
Keith Tyras, lives in Orlando, Florida, born in the U.S.
Intended immigrant or extended visitor: “‘Immigrant’ is a term that implies the law has been met - ‘intended immigrant’ or ‘extended visitor’ implies the reality of the situation.
Emily, lives in Coolidge, ??, born in the U.S.
Indocumentado: “It is the correct term to use. ‘Illegal immigrant,’ like most of our immigration code, is outdated and does not reflect the undocumented residents of today.”
Christian Ucles, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, born in Honduras
Undocumented immigrant: “I grew up in the Midwest where the term ‘Illegal Immigrant’ is thrown around to describe anyone whose Hispanic/Hispanic-looking. It wasn’t until I started seeing the ‘No Human Being is Illegal’ signs during the fight of the Arizona immigration law that I started to change my tune. Placing the term ‘illegal’ on an individual merely for wanting to find a better life is an insult. I still struggle with using the illegal to describe family, friends, or even myself. I became an U.S. citizen in ‘98 but had been in the country for eight years as an undocumented immigrant. I got my citizenship by mere luck. My mother had been in the USA just in time for the last amnesty back in ‘84. She was living in the U.S. while I still lived in Honduras with family. My struggle and that of million of immigrant families is for survival a basic human action.
Sandra, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, born in Mexico
Inmigrante sin estatus legal: “Prefiero esta descripción por dos razones: Eli Weisel (judío que estuvo en los campos de concentración) ha declarado firmemente en numerosas ocasiones que nunca debe considerarse a un ser humano ilegal. De hecho yo trabajo para AFSC y fuimos los que sacamos la campaña ‘no human being is illegal’ en 1998. Tampoco es correcto en términos legales porque la estancia de la persona es ilegal no la persona en sí.”
Felipe, lives in Boston, born in Brazil
Out of status: “It is legally correct, and removes any chance to demean a person with any given name.”
Jackeline, lives in Bay Shore, New York, born in Peru
“I feel that the term ‘illegal immigrant’ alienates our immigrant community and it has very negative connotations. This term assumes that undocumented immigrants are criminals and that they broke criminal laws. However, this is inaccurate because breaking immigration laws is not a criminal offense, but a civil one. The word ‘illegal’ also dehumanizes immigrants and it incites violence against them. This term marginalizes the immigrant community and tells them that they don’t belong in this country and that they shouldn’t speak up and demand that their basic human rights are respected.”
Jeffrey, lives in Brooklyn, New York, born in Hong Kong
“I prefer ‘undocumented immigrant’ because it much more accurately reflects the status of fellow human beings without certain papers. The term ‘illegal immigrant’ is dehumanizing and comes with the connotations that we are doing something wrong, something to be ashamed of.”
Monica, lives in New York, born in El Salvador
A precise description of the person’s experience/status or undocumented or unauthorized: “I prefer terms that point to the challenge of not having papers or proper authorization. To me ‘illegal’ anything is criminalizing, racially charged and dehumanizing.”
Gerardo, lives in Minneapolis, born in the U.S.
Undocumented immigrant: “I believe that this is the correct term that respects an individuals rights and does not dehumanize the people emigrating to this country. “
Rossy, lives in Miami and Los Angeles, born in Honduras
Undocumented immigrant: “Because you could be illegal if you did not pay your parking ticket or if you kill someone. However, people who commit another illegal act like the ones I mentioned are not called illegals.”
Eduardo, lives in the Bronx, New York, born in Mexico
Undocumented immigrant (general) DREAMer (young adults): “The use of these words humanizes and shows respect to all of those individuals that once migrated illegally to this country, for extreme reasons of poverty, lack of public safety in their country of origin whose only goal is to overcome those adversities by working in an honest manner and support not only themselves, but their family members as well.”
Barbara, lives in Mundelein, Illinois, born in Mexico
Undocumented immigrant: “Because we are immigrants and as in my cause, I crossed the border with no documents in my pocket and nothing to prove my identity. The documents are the only difference between me and any other immigrants and/or residents. The immigrant fight is over proper documentation, therefore the best name is undocumented immigrant.”
Jacque, lives in Duluth, Minnesota, born in the U.S.
Undocumented immigrant: “No person is illegal.”
Diego, lives in Ft. Lauderdale, born in Argentina
Aspiring American: “As someone that has grown up in this country, I feel American. However, I feel that until I am able to adjust my status, there is something that is not allowing me to be fully American.”
Serena, lives in Miami, born in Ecuador
Aspiring citizens: “Porque todos aspiramos a la cuidadania, con sus derechos y responsabilidades, y muchas veces le gente cree que no somos documentados o ciudadanos porque no queremos.”
Marlon, lives in Miami, born in Jamaica
Undocumented immigrant: “This phrase more captures the true status of most immigrants. ‘Illegal’ connotes some criminal intention of immigrants and this is not usually the case. The use of ‘undocumented’ decriminalizes the status of the immigrant.
Laura, lives in Nueva York, born in Mexico
Residente indocumentado: “Pues porque es lo que es.”