Monday, June 17

Submission: The term ‘illegal immigrant’ generalizes individuals


I recently read an article that was printed and plastered throughout the UCLA campus by The Bruin Standard. This campus fosters the intelligence of nearly 40,000 students and scholars – and yet here is a published work with thoughts that are rightfully entitled to be expressed, but dumbfoundingly used to suppress and oppress the voices and agency of a community the author is clearly so ignorant of.

Regardless of whether or not there were valid intentions behind the writing of the article, its use of disgustingly biased and generalized language regarding undocumented immigrants in order to grab the attention of the larger student body needs to be addressed.

Prior to seeing the headline of the article, “’Illegal immigrant’ – A Crime, Not a Race,” I always thought it was needless to point out the clearly uneducated generalization of speaking of a diverse group of undocumented individuals as merely one “race.” Clearly, it’s not.

This generalization is disgusting and offends more than just me, or the one “race” this article attempts to depict. It targets a highly diverse group of educated, hardworking and passionate people of all races from all over the world who have come to this country in search of opportunity, just as our ancestors once did.

I thought it might be worth mentioning that even our nation’s first European settlers colonized this land against the will of the Native Americans who originally inhabited it, similarly to how some may say undocumented immigrants are encroaching on this country today.

The main point that I’d like to get across is that what this article neglects to humanely take into account is that it discusses and objectifies a group of people; people who share with you and me opinions, perspectives and voices. By labeling and generalizing them as a “crime” for being present in our (might I add) immigrant-founded country without documentation, this article doesn’t just subjugate one group of people to privileged and racist-based conceptions of how our society should address undocumented individuals, it also subjugates the rest of us to repulsive and hatred-laced banter.

What really pains me is this: How did the voice behind this publication consider how these words would affect our fellow Bruins that are undocumented themselves?

Did it not cross any minds that calling a classmate an illegal immigrant invalidates the same acceptance and prestige we shared the day we all received that admissions decision?

The crime in my eyes is the oppression this article embodies; it’s contrary to our nation’s value “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Any argument that degrades the mere being or even the presence of another human and attempts to uphold that stance by hiding behind our freedom of speech, a right so many Americans have fought for since it was written into the Constitution , is a contradiction and a shame to our nation’s values.

The argument even goes as far as to justify itself by legitimizing the term illegal immigrant as “legal language, employed in both federal and state documentation.” If a term’s presence in both federal and state documentation gives it a moral free-for-all for it to be used daily, then clearly we must live in a different world; for it was less than a century ago that the term “Negro” was being used in our courts as part of the Jim Crow Laws.

The bottom line is, yes, we do have the freedom to mostly say whatever we want in this country – but where do we draw the line? Does this right entitle us to racially degrade each other? Does it provide us with the means to justify using a term to criminalize and marginalize an entire community?

What’s problematic with the “I-Word” isn’t that it merely violates personal sensitivities as the article so cleverly states; it’s the oppression it imposes by declaring a “nationally accepted” identity of a group of people that’s degrading and socially hindering on a multitude of levels.

What is demonstrated by the author’s clear lack of consciousness is a further incomprehension that any attempt to censor this derogatory term isn’t an attempt to smother our right to free speech, it’s a challenge to the oppression of imposing a degrading and problematic identity on a group of peoples.

I strongly believe and uphold that we are entitled to our opinions and have the right to discuss them, but when you impose your viewpoints in a manner that degrades and oppresses the being of others, especially our fellow Bruins, then you are abusing that right.

Cerda is a second-year undeclared student.

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  • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

    Sadly the institutional racism underpinning this country has made this vile term so commonplace that our fellow students think nothing of using it. As an academic community we should be on the forefront of standing up to any and all oppressions, especially those here on campus. Our student newspaper should never use racist, bigoted, and nativist terms like illegal to describe undocumented peoples. More now than ever, given the appointment of an individual now residing over the UC system—someone who recklessly destroyed families through record numbers of deportations. Using oppressive language like “illegal” makes us no better than Napolitano and all her fellow colonizers that continually oppress the most vulnerable in society.

    • Brian

      The problem is not that people do not possess ‘documents’; it is that they do not have permission from the citizens or government to enter the country and live here. If they do not wish to be ‘oppressed’ by me, they are free to return to their native land. By the way, _we are the ones being colonized_.

      • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

        Thank you for Klansplaining me Brian!

        Your fact-free diatribes about documents, citizens, governments, and such almost made me forget the long history of genocide, trail of tears, stolen lands, and broken treaties (Guadalupe Hidalgo for one) that comprise the so-called nation of laws you mention. “Free to return to their native land?” I know you probably didn’t learn this in your white supremacist studies classes, but the indigenous peoples of this continent ARE ALREADY on their native land. The depraved depths of racism and ahistoricism one must plumb to insinuate that “we [sic] are being colonized” is breathtaking. Save that Klanspeak for your next JBS meeting, this isn’t the forum for your brand of bigotry and hate speech.

        • Brian

          Your post does not contain any facts either, merely opinion (and histrionic insults). We are both offering opinions, and I don’t think you are entitled to decide what forum is allowed for me to speak in. I’m not sure why you think I’m engaging in ‘hate speech’ (more of that famous liberal tolerance, where any speech you disapprove of equals ‘hate’?). Do you not agree that the US gov’t and its citizens are entitled, as a sovereign nation, to set and enforce immigration policy as we wish? I was born in the United States of American citizen parents– does that not give me some moral right to say who I want moving in to my nation? If not, then what right did Native Americans have to oppose white colonists? You cannot have it both ways. Mexican nationals do not possess a legal or moral right to enter the US illegally and do as they wish…pretty simple really. As an experiment, you could try walking into Mexico without papers or permission and see what happens to you there. Other countries tend to be more sensible and strict about their immigration laws.

          You need to finish your schooling, junior, and get out in the real world for a while. Then the rest of your education can begin. And by the way, if you feel so poorly for the Native tribes, you are free to emigrate to whatever country your ancestors came from, as a means of atonement for your liberal guilt complex.

          • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

            More Klansplaining? Wonderful!

            While everything you assert is based on the erroneous assumption that the occupation of these lands is legitimate, history proves otherwise. Start with reading the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the ponder who is “asking to have it both ways.” I’d suggest UCR Professor Mike Davis’ “No One is Illegal,” or another such text, but it’s my experience that reactionaries and racists aren’t big on reading. Did I say experience? Yes, over three decades of opposing various Klansman, Minutemen, Birchers, and other nativists of your stripe.

            Being born in 1965, I’ll take it as a compliment that you called me “junior,” and insisted I get some experience based education. It’s somewhat sad that you’d think a young person would become a bigot from exposure to some phantasmagorical “real world.” Had you been shrewd enough to type my name into a search engine, you would have realized that this undergraduate is a nationally published essayist, politician, speaker, and activist. Never mind also being a U.S. Navy Veteran, husband, homeowner, etc. I think I have a bit of experience it what you condescendingly term the real world.

            By the way, I’m a leftist, not a liberal.

          • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

            Also, last time I visited Mexico—roughly two years ago—they did not ask me for papers or require permission. Upon returning to the empire, however, our group was subjected to a vehicle search and scrutinizing of our papers. There’s some irony in having to carry one’s US Passport not to enter another nation, but to simply return to one’s own. Perhaps it’s time to abolish borders altogether. Shell Oil, Microsoft, Sony, and Boeing don’t need papers, why should working class people?

          • Brian

            I was talking about what would happen if you became an illegal immigrant in Mexico, trying the reverse of what Mexicans are doing here. I’m not talking about you ‘visiting’ on vacation or a business trip.

          • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

            Fair enough.

          • Brian

            Pardon me for not investigating the credentials of a random stranger on a message board, but you sound like a whiny college kid who’s busy being indoctrinated into the wonders of White Liberal Guilt. ‘Boo hoo, Western Civilization is all slavery, genocide and environmental destruction’. Yeah, I’ve heard all that self-hating nonsense before. Most of the youngsters who espouse such naivete have the sense to outgrow it eventually, yet you’re actually proud of the fact that you haven’t. (By the way, 1965 still makes you my junior). I’m not sure what there is to my writing style and posts here that makes you shrilly insist that I’m not well-read, or a Klansman, Bircher, or any of that. (I have read the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo– you are not dealing with some toothless bumpkin here). You should consider the possibility that I am far closer to the mainstream here, and it’s you who is the fringe extremist. Project much?

            There is one thing that I’m curious about though. Presumably as a leftist, you would be concerned about the plight of the American working class, suffering from the depredations of the predatory capital elite…Joe Sixpack, union man, getting screwed by the Romneys. If so, we could actually get past the insults and find a point of agreement. My opposition to mass Latino immigration (and the Indian H1B’s for STEM jobs also) is not rooted in hatred of brown people; it’s rooted in concern for what the ruling elite is doing to the American working man. A guy like Romney or Zuckerberg favors mass immigration because it gives the capitalist a low-wage, pliant labor force of uncertain legal status…it’s akin to a union-busting maneuver, bringing in the scabs. They also get cheap landscapers, gardeners, and nannies, while not having to live near the Diversity and deal with the squalor, crime, rundown schools and cultural balkanization that results. Their money insulates them from that part of it, in their distant gated mansions.

            Meanwhile the powerless working man pays the price. His wages are pushed down in competition with the Indian or Mexican, his children’s school is strapped by having to try to bring illegal immigrants up to speed, he is made into a minority in his own community which becomes a rundown Little Guadalajara, and he has no say as the nation of his forebears is taken from him. Even Cesar Chavez was against mass immigration– he understood supply and demand, and the effect on the workers he represented. My position here is Joe Sixpack deserves to have his country, his dollar and his vote, and is not required to be a slave to Romney and Zuckerberg’s wishes. I do not want my country turned into this:

            http://news.yahoo.com/nations-breadbasket-latinos-stuck-poverty-120309988.html

          • http://rdsathene.blogspot.com/ rdsathene * Robert D. Skeels

            Odd that all encounters with nativists inevitably ends up with them denying their racism. It’s no small irony that both the peoples you singled out for your nativist ire are peoples lacking a melanin deficiency, but I’m sure you’d find a means to explain your choices away as well.

            Your cynical appeal to the workingman is a common ploy from the racist right when discussing immigration. The argument that monsters like Romney and Zuckerberg are bringing in immigrants to drive down wages falls flat in the light that those self-same vampires send those jobs overseas anyway. In other words, rather than blame the working people exploited by the ownership class, whether they’re here or elsewhere, we should be squarely blaming the Romneys and Zuckerbergs. If you haven’t figured out that all working people are wage slaves to the class you already mentioned, then you’re the one devoid of “real world” experience.

            While I concede your assertion that the wealthy gate themselves away from the abject conditions they create among working folks, you gave yourself away for what you really are when you said:

            “live near the Diversity and deal with the squalor, crime, rundown schools and cultural balkanization that results.”

            Using words like “diversity” and “multiculturalism” as coded pejoratives is the hallmark of white supremacist discourse. In fact, your statement looks precisely like the language one finds on Stormfront or Minutemen message boards. The supposition that non-homogeneous communities are invariably rife with crime, squalor, and the like is another mainstay of white supremacism.

  • Brian

    Are we a nation of laws, or are we not? Do citizens of a country, and their elected representatives, have the right to control who enters the country, how many, and under what conditions– or is this a free-for-all? Mr. Cerda, I’m am getting very tired of having my country invaded by people with a sense of entitlement and refusal to assimilate.