Josh Fernandez: Humanizing DREAM talk

The terminology used in reference to those affected by immigration and the DREAM Act needs to be revised. The so-called focus on budget cuts is mysteriously reflecting the current House of Representatives Republican majority’s not-so-subtle

The terminology used in reference to those affected by immigration and the DREAM Act needs to be revised.

The so-called focus on budget cuts is mysteriously reflecting the current House of Representatives Republican majority’s not-so-subtle social and cultural agendas.
House Republicans’ call for cuts in hundreds of programs, such as the Migration and Refuge Assistance account, in addition to the recent vote on eliminating federal funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, seemingly reflect culture war battles in the United States.

Despite this conservative agenda and presence in Congress, a Feb. 8 New York Times article points out President Barack Obama has been adamant about trying to revive the Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors Act – the DREAM Act – this year. The bill, which was shot down in a 55-to-41 Senate vote in December 2010, prior to the new Congress would have given undocumented youth who entered the United States before the age of 16 a path toward citizenship. joshua fernandez

While not giving up on this bill and placing it on his agenda is admirable of Obama, he and other DREAM Act proponents need to address the rhetoric used to describe the people affected by this cultural and social debate – rhetoric which distinctly marks them as “other.”

“Illegal immigrant” is the common phrase used to describe the population the DREAM Act would champion.

To give this bill even a fighting chance in this fierce conservative climate, U.S. society must undo the dehumanization process and stop using the word “illegal.”

“The vocabulary of immigration is important,” said Peter Spiro, a political science professor who teaches immigration law. “The use of the term illegal immigrant suddenly shaves the political discourse. The preferred term among immigrant advocates is undocumented aliens or undocumented non-citizens or [the term] ‘out-of-status.’”

The “illegal” modifier hasn’t gone unnoticed – the news website Colorlines.com and racial justice think-tank Applied Research Center created the I-Word Campaign to address the problems associated with this terminology.

The I-Word campaign points out that the term “illegal” allows anti-immigrant proponents to, intentionally or unintentionally, dehumanize immigrants and people of color by “othering” them.

“We are all human beings, but many in government and the media have chosen to continually use the term ‘illegals,’” the campaign’s website reads. “This sends the message that it’s normal to think about immigrants as sub-human and undeserving.”

When FOX News’ Glenn Beck or any other anti-immigrant advocate uses “illegal,” they’re also constructing a national identity that creates fear and anxiety, and knowingly or not, perpetuates justification for hating the people they “other.”

Sociologist Patricia Hill-Collins points out the “paradox of American national identity” in her 2006 book “From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism and Feminism.”

Hill-Collins stated this identity has a predominantly white association and contains many contradictions, ranging from citizenship rights promised to U.S. citizens compared to “differential group discrimination,” to “external and internal racisms that work with and through one another by excluding and containing selected categories of citizens.”

“Addressing these contradictions requires listening to those with different interpretations of what it means to be treated ‘like’ one of the American national family or to be excluded from the American national family altogether,” Hill-Collins wrote.

For those brought to the U.S. without their discretion, the DREAM Act would have been an avenue to build the kind of life in this country afforded to every born U.S. citizen.
The Times interviewed Maricela Aguilar, a junior at Marquette University. She bravely revealed her undocumented status in public at the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Wis., this past summer.

“It’s all about losing that shame of who you are,” Aguilar told the Times. “I’d much rather clarify to the public that being undocumented is just a circumstance I find myself in. I’d much rather have that out in the public than just living in fear.”

In this instance, Aguilar and undocumented youth are being excluded from the “American national identity,” and terminology may not be the only reason as to why, but it is certainly an important one.

Josh Fernandez can be reached at josh@temple.edu.

12 Comments

  1. To truly humanize illegal immigrants you should spend an equal amount of time providing an honest accounting of illegal immigrations costs; in addition to the innocent victims of illegal immigration – lawful U.S. citizens.

    The perpetrators are not the only “victims” here. After all, lawful U.S. citizens did not force these folks to break the laws of this nation.

  2. Do you notice there is no mention that their are a limited number of college slots and American children would get bumped by these kids. These illegal immigrant children are suffering the effects of their parents illegal acts. Now they expect us to put our children at risk to solve the problem their parent’s created for them. No, not on my time. I know you say you are innocent, well guess what? So are our children.

  3. This country is for free legal immigrants and native born only. I am a legal Mexican American and I know it is wrong for any race to illegally come here. Their kids should not be citizens either. Come on think if you came to Mexico, and had your kids there, do you think your kids would be called a Mexican or given Mexican birth certificate. NO! It is sad to watch so many illegals try to fraud this system. The simple facts are if they did not pay and wait like I did, then they should be deported to where ever they came from. Tell me if they get amnesty will I get my refund. Most legal American Latinos do not support this unless they have illegal relatives in their homes. I bet we should check all that voted for this Dream Act and you would see they are the criminals who are trying to cheat this system. How could we watch so many schools get closed and teachers getting fired, while we give free health care and WIC to these illegal people. It is sad because Americans like myself can’t even get freebies but so many of these illegals are, it makes me want to say I don’t have a SSN or instead of filling out a job application I should just say I’m illegal. Then I get the job even though it’s not a high wage I’m still getting paid right. Think long and hard mi familia. We don’t want America to become Mexico and then no one has a future but to watch drug cartels kill and kidnap our kids for ransom everyday.

  4. STOP COMPLAINING. SPEAK UP, BEFORE ITS TOO LATE?

    Anybody disturbed about illegal immigration and the taxes taken from taxpayers to support their health care, education and other welfare programs are fully aware more could be done to stop this travesty? Firstly–building the real–Double layer border fence, as originated by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and signed into law as the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The Secure Fence Act of 2006’s goal is to help secure America’s borders to decrease illegal entry, drug trafficking, and security threats by building 700 mile physical barrier as a deterrents complete with concertina razor wire. However, soon after the Democrats and some Republicans cut funding, so it remained one-single-fence. It’s residue a misnomer because it’s never been completed. Lobbyists for corporate welfare, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a whole range of radical ethnocentrism groups, along with the ACLU (My title The American Communist Lawyers Union) and a whole mob of pro-illegal alien, anti-sovereignty organization purchased our lawmakers.

    Instead we should deploying the National Guard on the border, US federal troops or even recruiting an extra 5000 US Border Patrol agents; it would restrict illegal entry. But Decades of neglect, lack of concern of the legislators playing into the hands of lobbyists for campaign contribution have left America open to the invasion, and ordinary citizens legal residents open to attack by terrorists. For Americans who believe in the “Rule of Law” it is past time, to rescind laws based on “Political Correctness” before it ends in a massacre like the 9/11Trade Center mass murders. We need to permanently implement E-Verify as it is essential of removing illegal workers from being hired by employers. The General Accounting Office offered a thorough analysis of the E-Verify program, with numerous hints as to what employers may view from this program in the future.

    The GAO describes a Driver’s License pilot program that is on the ongoing agenda early this year. The program is seeking to incorporate Driver’s License data into E-Verify, which could be used to substantiate the license number and expiration date when presented in a B listing on the I-9 employment verification document to identify irregularities. However, “State privacy laws (being politically correct again) may interfere with an expansion of this program. This report indicates that the pilot program does—NOT– integrate the use of photographs, so as for now it seems unlikely that E-verify photo-matching will expand to include driver’s licenses, unless US citizens demand it. The report also describes plans to allow persons to “lock” their Social Security number within E-Verify in an effort to reduce ID fraud. Now patriotic Americans who have not been mentally programmed by Liberal Progressives should contact their Representative in Washington at 202-224-3121 or at State level.

    Demand a mandatory E-Verify workers verification program for present workers and new employment using nationwide driver’s licenses. You have so much power with your vote and should use it as leverage, to entice Politicians to fully fund and execute E-Verify, fully. No more voluntary use and should carry penalties of second offense of imprisonment for 5 to 10 years. With first offense by an employer, fines of $25.000 dollars should be imposed and no excuses. REMEMBER THEY ARE STEALING YOUR JOBS. The relatively new secure communities should be federally installed, so every jail or prison can distinguish previous convicted, re-entry illegal aliens and turned over to ICE. The fingerprints of everyone arrested and booked are not only checked against FBI criminal history data-bases, but they are also checked against DHS (Dept of Homeland Security) immigration records. If fingerprints match DHS records, ICE determines if immigration enforcement action is required, taking into consideration the immigration status of the alien, My book everybody who knowingly enters the United States without permission, should be classed as a felon, not some minor civic infraction.

    ICE reported that as of September 30, 2010, 4,204, 862 fingerprint submissions resulted in 343,829 database matches. As a result of Secure Communities, ICE (Immigration and Customs Service) had removed 64,072 persons. These are very frightening numbers of the types of people entering America, with Americans as victims. Isn’t the Oath of Allegiance specify, specifically for our politicians to defend the United States from both domestic and foreign enemies? Secure Communities should be mandatory, with no opting out?

    The United States is under tremendous financial strain from catering to corporate employers, farmers and agricultural industry. Americans are failing to witness they are paying immeasurable amount of dollars. Last estimate at just the federal level was 113 billion dollars a year, which could go towards paying a massive debt to Communist China. Another 60 billion dollars is transferred by illegal nationals on average of leaving the country to foreign banks. That 1 dollar paid in federal and State taxes by foreign nationals, receives a return in fraudulent tax rebates and other. The future holds massive irreversible overpopulation, eroding infrastructure and federal payouts for education of the offspring of illegal alien workers, known as the 14th Amendment provision. The birthright citizenship for babies may not be amended by the Supreme Court, but the parents can be deported.

    They owe allegiance to another nation and should not be given any preferences; no pardons. Hospitals, schools and other entities should have a right, to report data how many foreign children are currently in the education system and applying for US birth Certificates as birthright babies. It’s unfeasible not to pass on the multitude of information about the expenditures for free health care, education and the corruption and collusion in Washington regarding illegal immigration. Your Questions and answers can be found at NumbersUSA and Judicial Watch. The alarm should go out to every State, which simply remains unresponsive to its legal population and not following the example of Arizona as a foremost policing State. That illegal immigrant in the State of Arizona are leaving in large numbers, looking for another State to settle down and begin applying for food stamps, Medicaid and all freebies to soak your municipal and state treasuries.We reserve the right to halt another amnesty, the Dream Act (another amnesty) Sanctuary Cities and reduce and stop to a trickle any more immigration.

  5. I would simply like to say that not everyone who is illegal in this country “cheats” the system. I am an undocumented alien with Protected Status and have done everything the right way. I graduated high school with honors, but I was unable to pay out all the fees when it became time for me to enter college. I have tried everything from Hope Scholarship, Financial Aid, and even signing up for the Armed forces. I have been denied by every single one because I’m not a resident. However, I dont want to give off the vibe that I belong on a pedestal. That’s not my true agenda. Just take a second and look at the irony in all of this. I would just like for people to realize that I am American whether I have a card to prove it or not. I’m sure many of you here have friends that are U.S. Citizens, yet they strive for nothing. I try to make something of myself but end up finding nothing but obstacles in my way. I am working LEGALLY in the U.S. and pay my taxes every year and have never applied for medicaire. I’ll probably come off as arrogant but believe when I say that’s not my intention. Realize, though, that many of us pay taxes and do everything by the book and that’s the people that the DREAM Act is meant to assist.

    -pardon grammatical errors

  6. Illegal immigrants are desperate and use less as good neighbors in the U.S. They break laws entering our country then are to scared to report criminal activity of which is a deep concern to U.S communities and citizens. Most illegal immigrants are lazy drunks, illegal drug users, not smart and business owners are to blame too for hiring / harboring them which makes them worse than the illegal immigrant. Also we should push congress to have all business owners / hiring managers in the U.S jailed & fined if they knowingly hire an illegal alien. Our U.S government corporations and business owners have figured out how to enslave, rob us, and kill us without even using a gun. These Guys R Evil Geniuses! Watch Out U.S Citizens & The International Poor! Every time a U.S business hires and illegal alien before a legal citizen is an assault or act of indirect violence to cause death to legal U.S citizens by financial impairing us. Please help us stop this pelage that is destroying our young growing nation and support the American Dream at http://usmoa.org/

  7. I am so tired of people denigrating “the rich” who dare to keep a penny for themselves.

    How are “the rich” anyway?

    The rich are just ordinary Americans. Half of Americans pay more tax than receive back in the form of refunds, tax credits, financial aid. If you pay a net tax to the government, then you are the “rich” who are become the scapegoat of everyone.

    When was a college education ever a right in the U.S.? Never.

    When did American youth ever picket and depise those who generously gave scholarships? Never.

    Illegal immigrants don’t understand the U.S. culture. A college education is not something they can demand on humane grounds.

    If this is all that illegals are wanting then it is clear the the U.S. has been giving them WAY TOO MUCH!!!

    Illegals are not willing to pay their own way. There are only here for the freebies.

  8. Freebies? Really? Just because someone who wasn’t born here, but was raised in the States since a young age, would like help with their college education it makes them a bad person? As soon as a non citizen asks for monetary help with school because they would like to grow as people it’s automatically a crime. I don’t stay up late pondering ways in which I can “steal from the Citizens” and “rape their land and money”. Give me a break! I pay for my fees and pay all my taxes but am charged out of state tuition just because. No help there! So I guess we’re not all here “freebies”. Ignorance, arrogance, and greed are three of man’s biggest flaws. Marinate on that.

  9. Strange you would note “ignorance” as one of mans biggest flaws; because ignorance is the excuse most illegal immigrants and their supporters are claiming for their rationale of why they deserve preferential treatment over lawful U.S. residents.

    My experience shows that vanity is our biggest flaw.

  10. Nice try Josh, your liberal guilt trip won’t work on me. Go get a real job and contribute something to society.

  11. Not one cent of taxpayer dollars should go toward encouraging illegal aliens to come here. We have enough poverty with our economy in the tank, we do not have to import more. If people can not take care of themselves and their families they should go home, get an education and apply to come here legally. We are broke and taxpayers are no longer willing to support these freeloaders that are protesting in the streets expecting more tax dollars to go toward their support. Support yourselves!!!

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