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).

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Five Migrant Girls Were Found Left Alone And Abandoned In The Texas Heat

Things That Matter

Five Migrant Girls Were Found Left Alone And Abandoned In The Texas Heat

This past March, according to El Pais, migrants crossed the Rio Grande at an all-time high not seen in the past 15 years. US government reports underlined that a total of 171,000 people arrived at the southern border of the United States in March. Eleven percent were minors who made the journey by themselves.

Reports say that this vulnerable group will continue to grow in size with recent shifts in the Biden administration child immigration policies. Five migrants girls recently found by the river recently became part of this group.

An onion farmer in Quemado recently reported that he found five migrant girls on his land.

The girls were each under the age of seven, the youngest was too small to even walk. Three of the girls are thought to be from Honduras, the other two are believed to have come from Guatemala.​ Jimmy Hobbs, the farmer who found the girls, said that he called the Border Patrol gave the children aid by giving them water and food and putting them in the shade.

“I don’t think they would have made it if I hadn’t found them,” Hobbs told US Rep. Tony Gonzalez (R-Texas) in a New York Post. “Because it got up to 103 yesterday.”

“My thoughts are that it needs to stop right now. There are going to be thousands. This is just five miles of the Rio Grande,” Hobbs’ wife added in their conversation with Gonzalez. “That’s a huge border. This is happening all up and down it. It can’t go on. It’s gonna be too hot. There’ll be a lot of deaths, a lot of suffering.” 

“It is heartbreaking to find such small children fending for themselves in the middle of nowhere,” Chief Border Patrol Agent Austin Skero II explained of the situation in an interview with ABC 7 Eyewitness News. “Unfortunately this happens far too often now. If not for our community and law enforcement partners, these little girls could have faced the more than 100-degree temperatures with no help.”

According to reports, the Customs and Border Protection stated that the five girls​ ​will be processed and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.​

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A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

Things That Matter

A Group of Volunteer ‘Fairy Godmothers’ Threw a Lavish Quinceañera For This Homeless Teen Girl

Photo via Getty Images

For most Latinas, having a quinceañera is a right-of-passage. Your quinceañera is the official milestone that proves you’re finally a woman. It’s a party that you look forward to your entire childhood. It’s that one time in your life that you, and only you, get to feel like a princess.

Unfortunately, not every girl has the luxury of having a quinceañera. Some girls’ families don’t have the finances to throw a huge party.

In Miami, a group of “fairy godmothers” organized a quinceañera for a homeless teen girl whose family recently emigrated from Mexico.

The girl, Adriana Palma, had moved with her family from Mexico to Miami in early 2020. But because of the pandemic, her father lost his job. Adriana, her parents, and her three younger brothers spent the next four months living in their SUV.

Relocating to another country is hard enough, but Adriana faced another challenge by being homeless, struggling to learn English, and chasing down random Wi-Fi signals in order to complete her homework assignments. It was a struggle, to say the least.

And to make matters worse, Adriana’s fifteenth birthday was coming up. Adrian’s parents told her that, since they were homeless, they wouldn’t be able to throw her a quinceañera. “We will be together as a family,” her mother, Itzel Palma, told her. “That will be my gift to you.”

Luckily, the Palma family had a group of guardian angels watching out for them. Being homeless wouldn’t prevent Adriana from having a quinceañera.

A charity called Miami Rescue Mission had already hooked up the Palmas with a small apartment for the family to get back on their feet. “Cover Girls”, a subgroup of the Miami Rescue Mission, dedicate their time to help women and children who are in tough circumstances.

When Lian Navarro, leader of the Cover Girls, found out about Adriana’s situation, she knew she had to help. Cuban-Amercian herself, Navarro knew how important quinceañeras are to young Latinas. She called up her group of volunteers and they got to work making Adriana’s dream come true.

The 60 “fairy godmothers” decided to throw Adriana the quinceañera of her dreams in a local Miami church. They settled on a theme: Paris.

The volunteers decorated the bare church in gold Eiffel towers, supplied pink macarons and French pastries, they topped off each table with a floral centerpiece. They gifted Adriana with every item on her wish list. Not to mention, Adriana was able to be dressed up in a frilly pink quinceañera dress. Her hair and makeup were professionally done. A professional photographer captured her special day.

“We want them to have these memories,” said Cover Girl volunteer, Tadia Silva, about children and teens who grow up homeless. “They have to believe they are worth all that because they are.”

After her beautiful quinceañera, Adriana appeared to know her true worth. At the end of the party, she gave her “fairy godmothers” personalized notes of thanks. “I felt like a princess,” she said.

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