The following story, and related letter to the editor, illustrate some of the linguistic issues and unfair associations in the current immigration debate. Before this story even mentions the man’s name they call the hero an “illegal immigrant.” Later though, at the end, it states that stories like this should remind us not to simply categorize illegal immigrants as criminals.
Migrant aids boy after crash
Mom dies after van plunges over cliff
Nov. 24, 2007 12:00 AM
A 9-year-old boy looking for help after his mother crashed her van off a cliff in southern Arizona on Thanksgiving Day was rescued by an illegal immigrant who stayed with him until help arrived the next day.
The letter to the editor sent in on this story states that we should call illegal immigrants criminals because they are here illegally and are therefore criminals. Sadly, I think the man that sent the letter in is missing the point. When illegal immigrants are categorized as criminals what is meant is that they are violent and vicious criminals. Many times when making this claim the gang MS-13 is mentioned and even when this gang is not mentioned the labels of rapist, murderer and drug smuggling are commonly used.
Here is the letter to the editor that was sent in:
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada is quoted as saying that the actions of Jesus Manuel Cordova should remind people not to quickly characterize all illegal immigrants as criminals.
Really? While the actions of Cordova are commendable, the fact that he committed a crime (entering the United States illegally) makes the use of the term “criminal” appropriate, as it would with anyone entering the United States illegally.
By the sheriff’s logic, if someone committed a burglary, but saved someone’s life while fleeing the residence, we couldn’t characterize all burglars as criminals now, could we?
Reading the article it is clear that the sheriff means we should not assume that these immigrants are here to rob and steal from us. Comparing a person coming into this country illegally to a burglar is irresponsible and makes no sense. Anyone that’s ever had their home broken into understands the feeling of personal violation associated with it. This is in no way similar to a man camping on the border in a wide open space or a family living peacefully in a community without documents. These immigrants are in no way invasive to our lives and they are here working; they are not here stealing our belonging or breaking down our doors.
It is these terrible analogies and associations that paint migrants and undocumented workers as criminals making it seem as though they are only here to rob and steal from us all. This is simply untrue and we should not prescribe to such associations.