Yesenia Jones | Correspondent
As a member of the Latin Community and a second generation immigrant, I know all too well the sacrifices it takes to come to the United States. Luckily, my family was able to gain documentation upon their arrival; however, many immigrants are not as fortunate.
Because the process of immigrating to the U.S. is long and expensive, a large majority of immigrants decide to take destiny into their own hands by finding ways to enter the United States without documentation. However, when they arrive instead of being met with support from society, they often face discrimination and are criminalized. The common usage of the term ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘illegal alien’ only aids in criminalizing an already vulnerable people.
The use of the term “illegal” was first popularized during the Holocaust. It was used as a derogatory term for the Jews who were escaping Nazi Germany. Today the word is commonly used to describe immigrants who come into the United States without documentation or chose to stay after their visa has expired. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, police already detain immigrants and hold them in horrible conditions for multiple weeks up to a month. What’s next: putting immigrants in concentration camps too?
According to the CNN article “Why ‘illegal immigrant’ is a slur,” even the Supreme Court omitted the use of the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” in a 2012 Arizona immigration case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority opinion in the same case, stated: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” Simply being an undocumented immigrant in the United States does not make one a criminal.
These people are not criminals unless they have committed an illegal act. The term illegal criminalizes the existence of a person and their ethnicity as a way to alienate them from society and create a further divide between them and the rest of the United States.
Trump and his administration have been some of the most recent culprits in incorporating the terms “illegal immigrants” or “illegals” into politics. The use of these words in political affairs normalizes them and makes it okay for racist terminology and micro-aggressions to be used in day-to-day conversations, thus furthering the criminalization of undocumented immigrants that are only attempting to be law-abiding citizens.
Actions such as not paying your taxes or money laundering should be considered illegal, not people. While Donald Trump is being accused of many illegal actions himself, it seems as though he is attempting to take the attention off of himself by threatening the lives of the most vulnerable people in the U.S., black and brown people. He first started by running a campaign that was built around criminalizing latinos. And we all remember when he used the term “bad hombres” to describe people who cross the border. This is the same thing that happened to the Jews.
It is clear that people who choose to use the term illegal immigrant over the politically correct terminology of undocumented immigrant, have negative opinions about immigrants in our country. As Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, once said “no human being is illegal.” Therefore, the term “undocumented” is a more politically correct term to use when describing immigrants who have crossed the border without legal documentation.
Since the court systems have made this large shift to promote inclusivity, why can’t the general public do so? After Trump made the announcement about possibly repealing DACA, I have heard the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” all over our own campus. In order for North Carolina State University to be a more inclusive campus, they should offer a program and/or educational tools for people to learn about racial slurs and microaggressions. As a college campus and a united Wolfpack, it is important that all members of our community feel welcomed and at home.