Posts Tagged ‘Associated Press’

The Tragic Use of Words to Criminalize Human Beings

January 29, 2009

Last Friday, the Minnesota Daily ran an article about the Asylum Law Project at the University of Minnesota.  The headline read, “Law Students Help Illegal Immigrants.” While the main thrust of the article was very pro-immigrant and gave voice to numerous groups involved in immigrant advocacy, the inclusion of the term “illegal” somewhat marred its message. After letters of protest from as near as the East and West Bank and as far as California, the Minnesota Daily Editor-in-Chief Vadim Lavrusik published statement explaining the misunderstanding, reiterating the Daily‘s 2006 commitment to use the term “undocumented,” and the editing of the article.

The Associated Press style book currently prefers “illegal immigrant” over “undocumented worker” or “illegal alien.”  While not as bombastic as the latter, “illegal immigrant” still criminalizes people and implies an overgeneralization.  For example, the cases the Asylum Law Project worked on were asylum seekers, who are neither legal nor illegal.  These people declared to the United States government they were seeking asylum from their home country; as a result, they are kept in detention centers until their case is decided.  To dub people like this “illegal” is to hold individuals guilty until proven innocent, a sad digression of American justice.  It is sad that the AP style book still persists in continuing a journalistic tradition that perpetuates such divisive and alienating terminology.

The common use and acceptance of derogatory terms in mass media track the same public discourse that laid the ground for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Called “Coolies” and “Asiatics” for years, accused of depressing wages and bringing subversive politics, decried as failing to integrate and having “anchor babies,” Chinese-Americans were discriminated against for decades preceding this first racially-based immigration legislation.  Chinese immigrants were effectively barred from citizenship until the act was repealed in 1943 with the Chinese Exclusion Repeal Act.   As has been the case historically, the ways Chinese immigrants were framed in the media affected the way they were viewed nationally.  Associated Press should be pressured to change their practice of using “illegal immigrant” in articles throughout the United States.  Please write a letter or email to the editors, telling them that no human being is illegal and that we are capable of more civil and exact nomenclature for migrants.

April is the Cruellest Month…

April 1, 2008
“APRIL is the cruellest month…” (Eliot, T.S. The Wasteland)

 

    April Fool’s 2008 will assuredly go down as a cruel day in the history of these United States. On this April 1, the United States government opted to bypass more than 30 laws in hopes of rushing construction of a controversial border wall. The wall is currently held up in negotiations, court cases, local protests, and wavering public support, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff ordered these waivers stating, “`Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation…These waivers will enable important security projects to keep moving forward.”

    The waivers are the biggest use of legal waivers since the administration started building fence. The government waived 20 environmental laws to build the wall in Arizona, but this waver will cover a “total of 470 miles along the Southwest border.” As stated by the Associated Press article leaked today at 11:40, the department will conduct environmental surveys when necessary, but allow them to start building before these are completed.

 

30 laws. 30 laws which took hundreds of days to pass, millions of dollars to lobby and legislate. 30 laws which represent millions of Americans and thousands of endangered animals and ecosystems. 30 laws tossed aside in the name of anti-terrorism. 30 laws tossed aside to complete the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which was proposed as immigration legislation and which has almost no terror-deterrent utility, as admitted by government officials.

 

    Chertoff has stated that the border wall will be beneficial to the environment because immigrants degrade the land with trash and human waste. I somehow cannot reconcile natural human movements with two eighteen-foot walls of solid concrete and vegetation cleared for visibility, mobility, and Border Patrol Access. Having just seen my first jaguarundi this past Saturday, I might be one of the last people to ever see them on American soil if this wall demolishes their ecosystem, along with that of Sonoran Pronghorns, ocelots, Sabal Palms, and many other native fauna and flora.

  • What makes a law “red tape,” a thing to be cut and disregarded?
  • What makes deterring immigration more important than preserving the rights of a nation of immigrants?
  • Who is to decide that people on the border are less important than people in mid-America?
  • Who decides that certain endangered animals are not worth saving, certain ecosystems dispensable, certain people undesirable, certain solutions nonnegotiable?

I cannot believe that Americans could be in support of such a foolhardy negation of so many laws, even if they are for a border wall. If “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” then these waivers of legislation serve as a chilling precedent of further lawlessness, much like parts of the Patriot Act. I beseech you to contact your Congressmen, since Congress authorized these waivers just today. I beg you to pray with me that Americans will come to their consciences and oppose these waivers. How we react to these waivers and the impending border wall in this cruel month will decide the legacy of our generation and our nation.