Things That Matter

Because Words Matter: Rep Joaquin Castro Wants To Get Rid Of The Words “Alien” And “Illegal” In Federal Law

Before we go ahead with this story let’s do something rapidito. Ready? OK, so let’s do a little thought experiment… 

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read or hear the word “alien”? Perhaps something like this?

Credit: @rzaba3 / Giphy

Yeah, something totally out of popular culture sci-fi imaginary, and what all those people that are pretending to storm into Area 51 are hoping to find. 

Or perhaps something out of a Hollywood blockbuster? A slimy, flesh-eating beast?

Credit: @nerdist / Giphy

The stuff that comes in your pesadillas at night! 

And what about the world “illegal”? Que te viene a la mente? Perhaps a police headshot? 

See where we are getting at? Your mind goes to criminality, shoot outs, police stations and fugitives, the world of law enforcement. It makes you feel threatened. 

Now, if you combine “illegal” with “alien”, this is what some gringos might think about:

Credit: @machetekills / Giphy
Credit: Giphy. @machetekills

Although Danny Trejo is a sweetheart, he is the epitome of the visual representation of the “bad hombre” in Trumplandia. 

And now think about “illegal alien” in the current political context. Does your brain produce an image similar to this?

Credit: image1170x530cropped. Digital image. UN News

It’s a big jump from movie characters and slimy monsters to the plight of thousands of migrants who are fleeing violence, war and persecution in their home countries, right? It doesn’t take a law or literature degree to see how the use of “alien” and “illegal” criminalizes anyone who tries to migrate to another country through whatever means necessary. 

Actually the dictionary definitions of these two words are pretty damning: 

Credit: black-and-white-dictionary. Digital image. EF English Live

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines them as follows:

“Alien” means “coming from a different country, race, or group” or “strange and not familiar” or “relating to creatures from another planet”. 

“Illegal” means “not allowed by law” and the dictionary gives the following examples: “a campaign to stop the illegal sale of cigarettes to children under 16”, “Prostitution is illegal in some countries”, “It is illegal to drive a car that is not registered and insured” and “Cocaine, LSD, and heroin are all illegal drugs/substances”. 

Phrasing is important, so that is why Texas Representative Joaquin Castro introduced a bill to change federal legislation and taking off the words “alien” and “illegal” from policy. So what is the terminology he is proposing?

The terms “alien” and “illegal alien” are an accusation rather than a denomination, and Castro doesn’t hold himself back from calling this a way of demonizing and dehumanize migrant communities. According to an article published by Foreign Affairs New Zealand, Castro is proposing a different, middle-ground terminology for describing individuals who migrate to the country outside of the official immigration system: “Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, today introduced the CHANGE Act, legislation that eliminates the term “alien” and “illegal alien” from the Immigration and Nationality Act, and replaces them with “foreign national” and “undocumented foreign national” respectively”. 

This small but significant change would alter how courts and the justice system in general perceives migrants. Repeat after us: “words matter”!

This is how Joaquin Castro himself puts it: “Words matter. It’s vital that we respect the dignity of immigrants fleeing violence and prosecution in our language. The words “alien” and “illegal alien” work to demonize and dehumanize the migrant community. They should have no place in our government’s description of human beings. Immigrants come to our borders in good faith and work hard for the opportunity to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. Eliminating this language from government expression puts us one step closer to preserving their dignity and ensuring their safety”.

The legal system deals in the currency of words and descriptions. Judges and juries make their decisions based on how the alleged crimes are presented, and the words “alien” and “illegal alien” certainly cast a shadow of criminality over migrants. These words strip them of a face, of a life story, of a personality. And this institutional act of stigmatization takes place regardless of whether the person being judged is an old woman, a adult man or a child (we seriously can’t get over how brutal authorities can be, even getting kids to decide which parent they want to stay with at the border). 

The use of “alien” has long been a stigma on the Latino community.

Credit: LATimes

As Jose Antonio Vargas wrote in a heartbreaking 2015 editorial published by The New York Times (we really recommend you read the whole thing):

“RESIDENT ALIEN.”

Those two words, in all caps, adorn the plastic-covered green card that my grandfather, a naturalized U.S. citizen, handed me shortly after I arrived in the United States from the Philippines. I was 12. I don’t remember thinking much about the card (which was not green) or the words (which, strung together, seemed like the title of a video game or a movie). It wasn’t until four years later, while applying to get a driver’s permit, that I learned the card was fake. I wasn’t a “RESIDENT ALIEN” at all but another kind of alien — in common parlance, an “illegal alien.”

The label “alien” is nothing but alienating. And when coupled with “illegal,” it’s especially toxic. The words seep into the psyche, sometimes to the point of paralysis. They’re dehumanizing.

So does Joaquin Castro look like VERY familiar? Well get used to that face (two very trending politicians wear it with Brown Latino pride!)

Credit: joaquincastrotx / Instagram

 Joaquin is the twin of Julian Castro, one of the candidates in the run for the Democratic presidential nomination. The brothers were born to a chicana political activist. That is why  social justice and human dignity runs in their blood. They are sort of a Latino Kennedy duo championing migrants rights! Yes, please. 

BTW, Castro has a long history of fighting for migrant rights, of course

Credit: @joaquincastrotx / Twitter

Joaquin Castro was born in 1974, so he is a pretty young politician at just 44 years of age. As we said, his family was politically active from a very early age, so it is no surprise that migration is on top of his legislative agenda. Depending on how his brother Julian does in the Democratic primary (our prediction is that he will get better recognition in mainstream politics, but it is a long shot for him), the Castro twins could either become an important part of the new administration or a fierce opposition to a second Trump term (oh, we hate to say this but we might need to consider the possibility that this might actually happening). 

And he is no fan of POTUS.

Credit: @joaquincastro / Twitter

He is unafraid of calling him out when needed, like when Trump went ballistic over the progressive agenda of the Fantastic Four (that’s how we prefer to call Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib).

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Things That Matter

Alejandro Mayorkas Is The First Latino And Immigrant To Be Named Secretary Of The Department Of Homeland Security

Joshua Roberts-Pool / Getty Images

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is Cuban-born and was one of the original architects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Alejandro Mayorkas is the first Latino and immigrant to be confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Mayorkas is inheriting a Trump-era DHS and is immediately getting to work to rectify issues that the Biden administration has highlighted. Two of the most pressing issues are heading up a task force to reunite migrant families who were separated by the previous administration and reviewing the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

“Remain in Mexico” is a policy that the Trump administration created and enforced that sent migrants to Mexico to await their asylum cases. The policy has been criticized both by U.S. and international politicians as a humanitarian issue.

It isn’t Mayorkas’ first time working for DHS.

Sec. Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of DHS from December 2013 – October 2016 under President Barack Obama. During that time, Mayorkas was crucial in responding to the 2013 – 14 Ebola virus epidemic and 2015 – 16 Zika virus epidemic. Mayorkas is ready to come back to the department and to bring back what he sees are the department’s mission.

“DHS bears an extraordinary weight on behalf of the American people, the weight of grave challenges seen and unseen,” Sec. Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is the greatest privilege of my life to return to the Department to lead the men and women who dedicate their talent and energy to the safety and security of our nation. I will work every day to ensure that they have the tools they need to execute their missions with honor and integrity. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values. The United States is a welcoming and empathetic nation, one that finds strength in its diversity. I pledge to defend and secure our country without sacrificing these American values.”

Mayorkas is no stranger to working on America’s immigration system.

Mayorkas is one of the original architects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which is at stake because of the previous administration. The Biden administration has made a promise to preserve DACA and to create a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

President Biden has introduced legislation to reform the current immigration system. The legislation has a timeframe for all undocumented people in the U.S. to become citizens if they follow certains steps and meet certain criteria.

While Mayorkas got bipartisan support in the Senate confirmation, some Republicans did not like his work in immigration. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban, voted to opposed Mayorkas.

“Not only has Mayorkas pledged to undo the sensible protections put in place by the Trump Administration that ended the dangerous policy of catch and release, but his nomination is further evidence that the Biden Administration intends to pursue a radical immigration agenda,” Sen. Rubio said in a statement.

READ: President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

Things That Matter

President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

Doug Mills-Pool / Getty Images

President Joe Biden promised that he would introduce legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. The president has followed through with the promise and all eyes are on the government as millions wait to see what happens next.

President Joe Biden has been busy the first couple of weeks of his presidency.

President Biden is proposing a pathway to citizenship that millions of people in the U.S. have been asking for. There are around 11 million people who are undocumented in the U.S. The pathway to citizenship will take time, according to the legislation, but some people will have time shaved off of their pathway, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and farm workers who have worked throughout the pandemic.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is designed to change the immigration system that has created a backlog of immigration cases. There are multiple steps in the proposed legislation starting with creating a pathway to citizenship. Those who would benefit from the bill are people who are physically in the U.S. by January 2, 2021.

First, the bill allows for people to apply for temporary legal status. After five years, and if the person passes a criminal and national security background check, they can apply for a green card. Three years after that, people who pass further background checks and demonstrate a knowledge of English and civics can apply for citizenship.

A line in the bill aims to help people deported during the previous administration.

“The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017, who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes,” reads the proposed legislation.

The bill also wants to change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws to embrace the country’s stance as a country of immigrants.

The legislation has been introduced and now immigration activists are waiting to see it happen.

The legislation tackles several issues that have plagued the immigration system in the U.S. The bill proposes increasing visa limits for certain countries, keeping families together, removing discrimination against LGBTQ+ families, and so many other initiatives to start reforming the immigration system.

President Biden has been offering executive orders that are in the same vein as the bill. Many have aimed as fixing issues that were created by the previous administration and the president is not hiding from it.

“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders I’ve signed. I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office while signing executive orders. “What I’m doing is taking on the issues that, 99 percent of them, that the last president of the United States issued executive orders I thought were counterproductive to our national security, counterproductive to who we are as a country. Particularly in the area of immigration.”

The undocumented population peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million and has declined since then. There are at least 4.4 million people in the U.S. with at least one undocumented parent, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

READ: President Joe Biden Signs Executive Order To Preserve DACA

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com