When The Augustana Observer delved into the topic of DACA last week, seeing the terminology used in several articles was very discouraging. The term “illegal immigrant” is absolutely incorrect and is considered by many to be a racial slur.
While the majority of DACA recipients are Latinx there is a significant portion of recipients that do not identify as Latinx and are from Europe, Asia, and Africa. This outdated offensive term that has been used to promote anti-immigrant propaganda. The use of the term implies a wrong way to immigrate and criminalizes people, which further adds to their dehumanization. While there are “official” ways to immigrate to a different country, it ignores the history and necessity of migration.
The reasons for why people decide to migrate are due to an issue of systematic inequalities pertaining to violence in their home countries or pursuing a better quality of life that is promised with the “American Dream”. The usage of the term “illegal” to refer to a person or to the greater migration movement feeds into the duality of those deserving of basic respect and human decency and those who are deemed unfit to deserve such basic respect.
Maria Hinojosa, an award-winning NPR journalist, who came last year to speak on the subject of immigration, has championed dropping the I-word. The Associated Press Stylebook stopped using the term “illegal immigrant” in 2013.
While it is still acceptable to use the word as an adverb to describe an action, we should take the extra step and just not use the word to refer to immigrants. No one is illegal. Human beings are not illegal. They are not aliens. They are people. We should start treating them as such.
President of Latinx Unidos
Vice President of Latinx Unidos