According to a Fox News Latino poll conducted by Latin Insights, a New York based independent research company, the majority of Latino “likely voters” believe the term, “illegal immigrants,” is offensive. Here’s the breakdown: 46 percent of those polled think the term is offensive, 12 percent think it is neutral and 35 percent think it is accurate.
Through repeated use by trusted media sources, the term “illegal immigrant” has given many people the impression, that it is accurate or perhaps neutral, because why would media use inaccurate, biased language? It’s been well documented that anti-immigrant advocates that promote nativism helped to make the term more popular in the media and then it was picked up by Republicans and Democrats alike in order to appeal to voters.
How does the i-word in all forms create bias? It’s language that creates anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Latino biased thinking regardless of a person’s migratory status, citizenship status or whether they are a 4th generation immigrant. This bias encourages racial profiling, engenders bullying, not-so-subtle anti-Latino messages in political campaigns, and the deportation of US citizens including people from Puerto Rico, deported to Mexico.
This language harms all Latinos and migrants of color by varying degrees and it encourages shame of all kinds.
It pushes people to recoil and say, “I am not one of them.” It pushes people who would otherwise object over the harsh policing, sentencing and jailing of communities of color, to look the other way and say, “not all immigrants are criminals.” Most of all it helps to excuse inhumane laws that shatter families and make life difficult for our undocumented brothers and sisters. As they fight to get free, we can only truly stand as allies with them by leaving behind this language that denies they are human beings.