A nice opinion piece from the Dallas Morning News

Jorge Ramos: People are not illegal

Jorge Ramos


That’s what they call them.

As Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel once said, “No human being is illegal.” A person may commit an illegal act, but nobody can be illegal in and of himself.

This term has become so widespread in the United States that even some of the more liberal politicians and members of the media are using it. Democrats I have interviewed are gen­erally confused and apologetic when they use the word “ille­gal” to refer to an undocumented immigrant, and they correct themselves. But almost every Republican I have spoken with uses the term without any sense of regret or consequence.

The term “illegal” has come to refer almost exclusively to immigrants from Latin America. As Roberto Suro, a researcher and professor at the University of Southern Califor­nia, wrote in his extraordinary book Strangers Among Us, “No immigrant group has carried the stigma of illegality that now attaches itself to many Latinos.” Why? Because “no indus­trialized nation has ever faced such a vast migration across a land border with the virtual certainty that it will continue to challenge the government’s ability to control that border for years to come.”

“Illegal” is used to refer to people who don’t have their papers in order, but it is never applied to the people or compa­nies who hire them. Never have I heard someone say, “This is an illegal enterprise by the simple fact that it employs undoc­umented people.” It’s a complete double standard.

This is surely a triumph for those who insist on dehumanizing the undocumented. It is much easier to attack, detain, abuse and deport someone you consider “illegal” than a person whose face you recognize, whose name you know, and who resides in this country legally.

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