No Human Being Is "Illegal" -- How Using the "I-Word" Creates Hate

Editor's note: the following is excerpted from the Applied Research Center campaign against the use of the term "illegal" to refer to undocumented immigrants.


You wouldn’t call someone a w*tback, or the n-word. Saying “illegals” is just as bad.

The I-Word creates an environment of hate by exploiting racial fear and economic anxiety, creating an easy scapegoat for complex issues, and OK-ing violence against those labeled with the word.

About the I-Word Campaign

Illegal(s): 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.

The I-Word Campaign represents a broad spectrum of individuals and communities from across the country that are demanding respect and rejecting the I-Word, “illegals,” as a designation of their neighbors, children, families and themselves.

Through the I-Word Campaign, our community of everyday people, business leaders, human rights advocates, religious and labor groups, attorneys and journalists nationwide call on media outlets to uphold reason, dignity and ethics by dropping the I-Word.

Using Racial Code as a Divisive Tactic

Use of the I-Word affects attitudes toward immigrants and non-immigrants alike, including people of color who come here from all over the world. The racially discriminatory message is not explicit, but hidden, or “coded.”

The term has deliberately been made popular in the media by a web of people and organizations that both promote anti-immigrant sentiment and encourage fear and division instead of facts and understanding.

This has happened in the past with other communities. The good news is that together we can Drop the I-Word and hold media and public servants accountable.

The following video by Independent Sources traces the evolution of the word.

Watch: 'Illegal' -- Evolution of a Word, by Michelle Garcia, produced for Independent Sources.

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