There are more than a few dirty words people can call each other to express discontent or anger, and the Associated Students Incorporated (ASI) Government unanimously passed a resolution on Nov. 8 to discourage students from choosing a particular six-lettered one.
Although this word carries a legal nuance found in the criminal justice system to describe people’s actions, it has found its way into the American colloquial to describe people.
The elephant in the room? Well, that would be the individuals who are “undocumented workers,” “unauthorized” or “persons without papers” – as are the alternatively suggested adjective phrases when referring to such individuals – who immigrate to the United States without formal permission.
It is for these people that individuals including ASI Multicultural Senator Tommy Ward hope the usage of “illegal” will cease to occur.
“We’re encouraging people to stop using the term ‘illegal immigrant’ because it’s actually factually wrong, rather than the fact that it’s a pejorative term,” said Ward.
Indeed, the factual argument against using “illegal immigrant” stems from the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that the government will not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The key phrase is “any person,” which appears to include citizens and non-citizens, regardless of how or why they’re in the States.
While the acts people can commit are illegal, even U.S. citizens who committed crimes like murder are considered legal persons on account of their citizenship. The null hypothesis that a person without immigration papers or citizenship is an “illegal person,” as the argument goes, does not follow and is inherently incorrect.
“Part of what’s in the resolution is that ‘illegal’ is an incorrect term because when someone commits a crime, it then becomes a criminal [lawsuit],” said Ward, who was inspired to introduce the resolution after speaking with a friend from Long Beach State University at a California State Student Association (CSSA) meeting in Fullerton.
Ward’s resolution, adopting the same title as the CSSA’s “Drop the ‘I’ Word” resolution, didn’t lag far behind its namesake that was resolved on March 18 of this year.
Besides its legal inaccuracies, the term “illegal” is also deemed both derogatory and dehumanizing by Ward and CSSA’s resolutions. This has been felt and expressed by many people in America, including CPP’s campus community members, such as recent political science alumnus Jose Marquez.
“I think more than anything it marginalizes people,” said Marquez, himself an undocumented individual.
For Marquez, it’s the children of undocumented individuals who he said the term “illegal” could affect with greater magnitude. It’s also many of those individuals who seek higher education at universities across California, such as Cal Poly Pomona.
“You feel like you’re not part of the community and feel like you’re looked down upon,” said Marquez, referencing the use of “illegal immigrant.” “Even professors use this term; it just doesn’t allow undocumented citizens to grow as people.”
For more information, visit asi.csupomona.edu.