Just as blacks marched in the 1960s for civil rights, Hispanics are marching today for immigrant rights. And just as many non-blacks marched back then in support of black civil rights, today many non-Hispanics are marching in support of Hispanic immigrant rights.

Cable news and talk radio are making a killing demonizing undocumented immigrants. In terms of ratings, few issues resonate as reliably. Since the fiery period of 2006-2008 when Congress first seriously contemplated rational immigration reform under the leadership of senators John McCain, R-AZ, (yes, that John McCain) and the late Ted Kennedy, D-Ma, but then ran from the issue in the face of furious backlash, ample file footage exists in every news outlet’s video library of young Latinos jumping the border wall or wading across the Rio Grande.

The story is therefore easy and cheap to illustrate. The fact that it is a lazy stereotype of undocumented immigrants, which ignores the hefty percentage of European, Asian, Australian and African visitors who overstay their visa is irrelevant, too complicated and lacking emotional punch. Thus, the typical report consists of a TV anchor or radio talk host lamenting either how our nation is being drowned by the brown tsunami from south-of-the-border, how they are sucking the nation’s life blood or how one of the invading Latino hordes committed a crime, which is far more egregious than if a citizen committed the same crime, “because they had no right to be here!”

photo source: AP

Further, no branding has proven more effective than the combination of two powerful pejoratives, illegal and alien.

Like the words ‘Jew’ or ‘slob’ or ‘slut’, the phrase ‘illegal alien’ has the elegance of being harsh, but defensible, if accurate. Although it can be used as a cutting reference, it can still be uttered in polite company without fear of raising many eyebrows, especially among those who feel similarly negative about the individual being described.

photo source AP

Recently, a campaign has been mounted by Latino activists and supporters to ban use of the “I” word (as in Illegal). Ironically, the campaign has found traction first in Arizona, the state now most vividly associated with anti-immigrant sentiment and the birthplace of SB1070. Back in 2008, before things got truly vitriolic in the Grand Canyon State, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor agreed to ban the terms “illegal” and “alien” in all hearings or trials in state courtrooms.
The decision came after the High Court was criticized for using the words “illegals” and “illegal aliens” in several opinions by Arizona’s Hispanic Bar Association, known locally as “Los Abogados,” which asked Chief Judge McGregor for the ban. Their reasoning is as obvious as the motive of those who resort to using the offensive language. The terms create a contemptible brand, which stokes anti-immigrant bias and in the process, “tarnishes the image of state courts as a place where disputes may be fairly resolved.”

The biggest myth they were peddling, of course, was that Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor had banned the use of the words “illegal” and “aliens” to refer to the undocumented migrants in state courts. In reality, McGregor received a letter from the Hispanic Bar Association (Los Abogados), expressing concern over the use of what they deem to be derogatory terms towards MMPs (Mexicans Minus Papers). McGregor simply shared the letter with her colleagues. She didn’t order them to do anything about it.

Because the cause is righteous, the movement to ban the expression has recently been re-energized and may spread, perhaps first to Florida. There, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, has introduced a bill to ban the phrase “illegal alien” from official state documents.

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

“I personally find the word ‘alien’ offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children,” she said recently. “An alien to me is someone from outer space.” While no penalty is attached for using the expression, the flamboyant Senator Wilson added, “we don’t say ‘alien,’ we say ‘immigrant.'”

Aside from its unstated but intended negative reaction, I have a lawyer’s reason for wanting media outlets like my own to ban or at least modify the phrase. Absent a finding by a judicial or administrative body, it assumes a legal conclusion, that a person has no right to be in the United States. Given that every person whose resident status is questioned has the presumed right to a hearing on the matter, with an appellate process following a negative result, isn’t the media’s use of the expression as lazy as assuming the guilt of a person accused of every other crime?

Sheriff Richard K. Jones has a website for “illegal aliens”

How is it that accused murderers, robbers and child molesters are called “alleged” perpetrators, but immigrants are not accorded the same courtesy of accuracy, indeed, the same presumption of innocence?“Illegal alien” is a cheap shot. The oft-used plural of the adjective “illegal” as in “illegals” isn’t even recognized as an English noun by Microsoft Word.

photo source: Fickr

It is stigma piled on stigma, and the potential consequences to a person so described following a judicial finding can be devastating. Anyone who suggests that deportation isn’t punishment is being disingenuous. So, if you insist on using the ungrammatical slur, at least await a finding of illegality before branding usually hard-working, otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants snared by authorities.

photo source: Flickr

photo source: Flickr

“Alleged illegal alien” may not be much of improvement, but it’s a step in the direction of accuracy. A voluntary decision by my cable news and talk radio colleagues to drop the phrase entirely would be humane and more in keeping with our immigrant nation’s centuries old traditions.

Read more: Latino FOX News

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photo source: AP

1986: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 both tightens controls on illegal immigration and extends amnesty for many illegal immigrants. It requires that employers attest to employees’ immigration status and make it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. It also grants amnesty to some seasonal agricultural workers and to illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to 1982 and have lived in the country continuously.

President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which provided amnesty to illegal immigrants who qualified.

1990: The Immigration Act of 1990 created a lottery program that randomly assigned a number of visas, and increased the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. The law also included exceptions for the English-language portion of the naturalization test.

The green card lottery is held annually to randomly select 50,000 applicants to be awarded with green cards.

1996: Under President Bill Clinton, several pieces of legislation are enacted that crack down on various facets of immigration. Specifically, there is a sharp increase in the categories of criminal activity for which immigrants, including permanent residents, can be deported. The laws also impose mandatory detention for certain types of deportation cases, and as a result deportation rates skyrocket.

Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sept. 11, 2001: Terrorists attack New York and Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. The events put immigration under a microscope because the attackers were foreigners, and change the way many politicians and Americans view immigration. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox goes so far as to say that if it were not for the attacks, Congress would have passed reform legislation that benefited Mexican emigration to America.

President George W. Bush walks with Mexico President Vicente Fox, left, and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin upon their arrival Wednesday, March 23, 2005, at the Bill Daniels Activity Center at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. White House photo by Eric Draper

2003: The Supreme Court upholds mandatory detention regardless of flight risk for any immigrant offender, even permanent residents.

2005: In 2005 and 2006, Congress holds field hearings on immigration and border security across the country. The Senate introduces a significant bipartisan effort to create a path for legalization for many illegal immigrants.

Pullman Daily News photo: Dean Hare

December 2005: The House passes a bill criminalizing illegal immigrants, sparking massive pro-immigrant protests nationwide. The Senate refuses to take it up.

photo source AP

May 2006: Instead of the House bill, the Senate passes a tougher version of a bill crafted by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., which includes a path to legal residency for many illegal immigrants.

October 2006: The fiscal year 2007 budget boosts funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement by more than 20 percent, about $1 billion more than President George Bush requested, mostly for detention and transport of immigrants.

Thousands of immigrant rights advocates pack the National Mall during an immigration reform rally in Washington, Sunday, March 21, 2010. (AP Photo)

November 2008: President Barack Obama is elected, and Democrats sweep both chambers of Congress, giving hope that a major immigration reform bill will be enacted. Obama had signaled interest in reform that included enhanced border enforcement, crackdowns on people who overstay their visa and employers who hire illegal immigrants and a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

Body language experts interpret that a hand placed over the mouth, as Obama is pictured doing, indicates negative impulses and disapproval. photo source: AP

2009: A comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in the House fails despite efforts by the Obama administration to get it traction.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 in April 2010. (Photo courtesy of the Arizona Office of the Governor)

April 2010: Saying the Congress had failed to enforce U.S. immigration laws, Arizona passes a law to crack down on various facets of illegal immigration. Most controversial is that the law directs police to ask for immigration papers from anyone they stop or arrest who they suspect may be in the country illegally.

Sep 20, 2010 – Los Angeles, California, USA – Los Angeles Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA during a rally that supports the Dream Act which allows temporary legal status for immigrant students.
(Credit Image: © Mark Samala/

December 2010: The so-called Dream Act, which would allow illegal immigrant students a path to citizenship, passes the House in the lame duck session. The Senate GOP filibusters, effectively killing the bill.

Hundreds of immigrant rights activists rallied outside the Supreme Court building Wednesday as did several dozen supporters of Arizona’s law. Photo: Creative Commons/Talk Radio News Service

April 2012: The Supreme Court takes up the Arizona law. While a decision isn’t expected until June, during initial arguments the justices appear to have little issue with provisions requiring police to check the legal status of people they stop for other reasons.

Courtesy of the AP to Read More: Washington Post

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If you have any questions, concerns or simply would like to get a quote on my Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media and/or Events services, please feel free to contact me.

God Bless and make it a fabulous day!

powered by Influential Access – “Transforming the Ordinary to EXTRAordinary!” – CEO – Jessica Marie Gutierrez – Creator of The Hispanic Blog #thehispanicblog


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