Welcome to the first installment of Vistas, a regular feature of HuffPost LatinoVoices whereby we will ask prominent Latino thinkers and doers for their perspective on a theme, issue or event which is often cause for a significant discussion within our community and beyond.
Recognizing that Latinos are not a homogeneous group, and yet share a broad range of experiences and legacies, Vistas simply aims to help illustrate different points of view, which in aggregate can present a truer reflection of what the larger community feels and thinks.
This week's theme is:
It seems that people who advocate for immigration reform actively reject usage of the word 'illegal' when referring to undocumented immigrants, and those who have the opposite perspective, choose to actively use the term 'illegal' to represent the these same immigrants.
On the one hand, the legal term 'illegal alien' describes foreign nationals who have entered the U.S. without legal permission, or having entered legally, have since lost that status. In this context, 'illegal' refers to the status of the foreign national. On the other hand, U.S. law distinguishes between entering the country illegally (a criminal act) and overstaying a visa for legal entry (a civil offense).
As Hispanics, we are hyper-aware of the immigration debate and fall on all sides of the issue, but do we all feel the same about the use of the term 'illegal?'
In the slideshow we present the responses received and invite you share your punto de vista and comments below.
"While there are good ethical and linguistic reasons to avoid using the term 'illegal,' I'm not sure it's always worth the fight. It is far too easy for opponents of immigration reform to lambast us as politically correct or hypersensitive. Or they insist that we're misleading citizens about the true terms of the debate, or that we're ashamed of the undocumented. In any case, pretty soon we start arguing over terminology rather than issues of substance, and then we're put on the defensive." - Daniel Cubias, The Hispanic Fanatic Flickr photo by: longislandtwins
"I use illegal immigrant (as first reference, then interchanging with undocumented immigrant) not because I am hardened to the plight of divided families, shun people who know no other home than the U.S., or because I respect the AP style guide's preference. Instead, I purposely use illegal immigrant to put U.S. law under scrutiny. Euphemisms soften realities. Nothing is warm and fuzzy about being invisible, not counting, living in a perpetual state of criminality. We must name and claim this term with the express intent of changing the law through sensible immigration reform. The time has come to make these 'Americans' who now contribute to our country with their taxes and work ethic--official." - Viviana Hurtado, The Wise Latina Club Flickr photo by: ProgressOhio
"Although it's true that undocumented workers are not allowed to work in the U.S. I see them as human beings and humans are not illegal. They can be undocumented or they can be involved in illegal activities but in essence, they are not illegal humans. So, using the label 'illegal' to name humans, seems inappropriate." - Mariela Dabbah, Author. Speaker. Consultant Flickr photo by: C.G.P. Grey
"I've always heard undocumented people call themselves 'illegal'. It makes me think they should wear it as a badge of honor. As a demonstration that no border is going to keep them from working for a better future for their families. No wall is going to separate a child from a mother. To me, 'illegal' means no fear, determination and bravery beyond anything we 'legals' know. In Los Angeles, where I live, you never see 'illegals' begging, they may sell oranges or flowers, but they are here to fulfill a promise and that's just what they do." - Viviana Pendrill Flickr photo by: Narith5
"Polls have shown that the majority of the Latino community knows undocumented immigrants. Once someone meets a person who does not have their immigration status they understand that labels such as 'illegal' dehumanizes us. They also see that the immigration issue has become one of the ways that the opposition uses to undermine our political power as a community. Words such as 'illegal' makes it acceptable to push for anti-Latino legislation such as SB1070 in Arizona and it creates a culture of hate that affects everyone in the community." - Felipe Matos, Presente.org Flickr photo by: DrCuervo
"In Spanish, the community uses the term 'ilegal' liberally, without compunction or intent to diminish a person's humanity or integrity. But in English, because the term is often accompanied by disapproval, blame, and contempt, many of us have grown to firmly reject its use. Those in the media have not successfully understood the inaccuracy of labeling a person an 'illegal'. Things and actions are illegal, people are not. My mother and father and I never felt illegitimate, unwanted, and unnecessary even when our papers were not in order. We always felt like newly-arrived Latino-Americans. We took the word, sucked the venom out of it knowing full well we would never be, under any circumstance, an adjective but always a noun." - Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles Flickr photo by: Fibonacci Blue