Today’s Bad Word: Illegal Alien

Definition: ‘illegal alien’ refers to individuals who cross a boarder into the United States unlawfully and without proper documentation.

What is says: An intensely negative term, ‘illegal’ defines people as criminal, forbidden and illegitimate. While ‘alien’ is synonymous to foreign, unwanted and dangerous. Are we really likening people from other countries to creatures in sci-fi movies? Come on…

My beef? The term itself erodes basic human rights (such as the right to a fair court hearing) by presuming illegal status. Besides being presumptuous, it condones arbitrary detention and unfair deportation. Moreover, it ignores that fact that many cross the boarder to escape oppression and a life of poverty in search of greater economic opportunities, mobility and quality of life.  Do we want to live in a country that would round up and deport millions of people? Or racially profile Arizona residents – stopping suspicious cars and passersby – who may remotely “look like” someone not of European decent?

We should treat all those among us with dignity and respect, welcome newcomers without assumption, and work toward a more comprehensive and just immigration policy. Because, in so many ways, immigration is a net positive for America (economically, demographically, etc.)

Suggested replacements: undocumented people, undocumented worker, migrants

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