Migrant aids boy after crash – Unfair Comparisons Demonize Immigrants

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
Associated Press
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.


2 thoughts on “Migrant aids boy after crash – Unfair Comparisons Demonize Immigrants”

  1. Entering the US illegally is a crime, but it’s not a felony, like it is for illegally entering Mexico, I might point-out.

    Illegal immigration is a complex ongoing problem, and simplistic misrepresentations of all the facets and issues is not going to help us come to some sort of balanced and reasonable solution.

    What I find disturbing from the pro-illegal immigration camp is the lack of honesty in describing the issue of Mexico taking political responsibility for it’s population fleeing in droves.

    What is Mexico doing to make life better for Mexicans? And is it fair for the US to not be recognized by Mexico for basically subsidizing it’s economy via illegal Mexican immigrants living and working in the US and sending money they did not pay income taxes on, home to Mexico, without contributing their fair share in taxes here, while taking advantage of systems and social services American citizens have and are continuing to pay for.

    Both sides are false in their contradictory, blanket statements concerning crime related to illegal immigrants. The Pro side says they are law-abiding, the Con side points out the inevitable crime wave fueled by some of them. The Pro side behaves as if there is no issue with illegal immigrants who are already criminals, who would never even BE granted passage into the US under *any* circumstances. They are here, too, with the bulk of illegals who are here to work hard and pull themselves out of poverty – the American Dream…

    It takes a lot of desperation and determination to wander through the desert and cross the boarder illegally – they KNOW they are crossing illegally – if they COULD come in legally through the front door, the law-abiding ones that want to come here to work would hardly walk in the desert for days. Think about it.

    I think a lot of people are haunted by this story because a lot of people want to just magically deport everyone here illegally. The reality and the fact that this is simply not ever going to be possible and would certainly tear this country apart seems to be totally lost on them. Look, the US has held out the beacon of light and hope and opportunity to the world – tell me that this isn’t something you learned about our country as a young child – tell me that this is not something we take great pride in ?

    How dare we hold this beacon out to the world and be surprised that a lot of out southern neighbors want to come here ?

    And lastly, I think a lot of the angry Con illegal immigration folks are just plain upset at their own consciences when confronted by this story and the interest in it. It’s a good story. It beats the negative stories about real dangerous criminal illegal immigrants who would find a way illegally into the US, regardless of our failed immigration policy.

    And because THIS illegal immigrant’s name was


    And it is so very close to Christmas…

  2. The first thing I’d like to point out is that I’m not pro-illegal immigrant. I am pro humanity and compassion and finding the best solution to this issue. This blog centers around undocumented workers, but it does not mean that I’m not concerned about other issues, such as what’s happening in Mexico, the war in Iraq, etc. If I had enough time to write about every issues I certainly would.

    As far as the battle of words goes – yes, both sides will sometimes use blanket statements about the whole group. However, I have written, in this blog, about stories where undocumented workers have committed atrocious crimes. I do not fail to recognize that some of these people are violent criminals. What I’m trying to do is thwart the often argument of the nativist groups that state that they are all violent criminals. They’ve said it in speeches, written it on-line, and they’re using it as a tool to scare the US population into taking their side.

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