SB1070 highlights problem w/ “Illegal Alien” meme


It has taken the ludicrous extremes of SB1070 to clarify once and for all the mission of the “No person is illegal.”  It’s mission is to educate the public about the damage caused by the term “illegal alien,” a concept that is undefined in the immigration law code and that denies the humanity of persons who are forced to wear the label.

The idea is simple. We are not our actions or behavior. Human being are neither good nor bad; rather they do good or bad things. They are neither legal nor illegal. Rather they engage in conduct that is legal or unlawful.  When they engage in behavior that is unlawful, they may be labeled a suspect or convict or criminal, which defines them as somebody who committed or is charged with committing an unlawful act. But they themselves are not illegal. Their identity is not unlawful.

Here is the point. Were someone declared to be illegal just because of the unlawful acts they commit, there would be many millions more “illegals” walking the streets. If one were labeled illegal for an act they haven’t been tried for, which is the case with most “illegal aliens” then most of us would be “illegal,” in some capacity or another. an illegal jay-walker, or illegal loiterer, or whatever.

This is all the more the case since the offense of being undocumented in this country is a civil offense, not even a crime, and entering the country without papers is a misdemeanor, sort of like loitering or jaywalking.

Now in the immigration field, being undocumented comes with the excess baggage of having your identity dismissed as “illegal: If you are illegal in your essence, then perhaps the police should come to round you up. But then, if all your have done is cross an imaginary line without papers or overstayed a visa, then perhaps society ought to leave your essence alone and just deal with the relatively minor infraction of being out of status.

SB1070 functions as if human beings are illegal. SB1070 is excessive if indeed it is dealing with individuals whose only alleged offense is administrative or a misdemeanor. Not even the war on drugs imagines placing everyone in a state under suspicion for having smoked a joint or taken a pill. Nor would it because we are a nation of laws. It seems a shame that the rule of law does not pertain to Latino immigrants in Arizona.

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One response to “SB1070 highlights problem w/ “Illegal Alien” meme

  1. Thank you for this post and pointing out the problems with the term illegal alien. It is unfortunate that now even democrats in favor of some sort of comprehensive reform are embracing variations of this term.

    It would be great if we could come up with a meme useful for media work that challenges the illegal alien meme. The “no human is illegal” meme is definitely powerful for our actions, personal conversations, and organizational communication, but is not a meme that the media can use.

    Your statement, “Were someone declared… loiterer, or whatever.” may be a good place to start to create such a meme.

    We really do need a number of pro-immigrant rights memes to country the damaging anti-immigrant ones that have been becoming stronger and stronger in the last year or so.

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