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Submission: The term ‘illegal immigrant’ generalizes individuals


Nov. 18, 2013 12:00 a.m.

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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