Recently, I attended the “Facing Race” conference in Chicago sponsored by Applied Research Center and Colorlines magazine, which focused on racial justice issues. The plenary and workshops that I attended were great and provided me a new sense of commitment and insight about why this work is so important.
But what resonated with me most was the Drop the I-Word campaign. The I-Word campaign views the word illegal(s) as a damaging word that divides and dehumanizes communities and is used to discriminate against immigrants and people of color. The I-word is shorthand for illegal alien, illegal immigrant and other harmful racially-charged terms.
I am an immigrant and have members of my family who are undocumented, so I feel firsthand the impact of the word illegal. Members of my family live daily in the shadows, always looking over their shoulders, afraid that ICE will be knocking at their door any minute. They live in a world we can’t ever imagine, with no rights to organize, no rights to fight for better wages, decent hours or working conditions. Many in our society view them as draining vital resources away from their communities, without understanding the immeasurable contributions (economically and socially) that undocumented immigrants have given to this country. Being labeled illegal aliens rips the souls and spirits of my relatives and denies them the potential to fully achieve their American dreams of better housing, education, healthcare, and most importantly, as human beings.
It’s time to hold organizations and institutions accountable for perpetuating the word illegal. It’s time to see everyone as a human being regardless of status, because, aren’t we all immigrants one time or another?
Go to the Colorlines website for more information on the Drop the I-Word Campaign.
Here is the campaign’s video.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6GcPft7mqU&feature=player_embedded]