This page accompanies the blog post Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities in the Age of Trump: 5 Language Practices. Please read the full post and feel free to download and share the images on this page.
Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities: Practice 1: Drop the I-word.
[Image description: Speech bubbles labeled “dehumanizing” say: illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, and illegal immigration. Speech bubbles labeled “re-humanizing” say: unauthorized immigrant, undocumented Americans, people who don’t have papers, entering the United States without permission, living in the country without legal permission, and noncitizen. Text underneath says: Since 2010, Race Forward’s Drop the I-Word campaign has worked to get mass media to stop using the word “illegal” to describe immigrants, because it’s dehumanizing, it’s racially charged, and it’s legally inaccurate. Be a radical copyeditor: don’t use the word illegal in the context of immigration. Get all five practices for writing about immigrant communities at radicalcopyeditor.com/blog.]
Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities: Practice 2: Create space for refugees and asylum-seekers.
[Image description: Four terms appear in speech bubbles, each with a definition. Immigrant: A person who has established residency in the United States but was born in a different country. Refugee: A person who has fled their country due to persecution, war, or disaster. Must be granted refugee status before coming to the USA, which can take 1-2 years. Trump capped refugee admissions at 30,000 for 2019, a 73% reduction from 2016. Asylum-seeker: A person who has fled their country due to persecution or violence and either presents themself at a U.S. port of entry or enters the country without permission and applies from inside. 65% of asylum claims were denied in 2018, up from 42% in 2012. Trump is now attempting to effectively end asylum at the U.S. southern border. Migrant: A person who moves from one country to another. In the USA, usually refers to people who regularly or temporarily move for work (migrant worker). Text underneath says: Be a radical copyeditor: don’t render refugees and asylum-seekers invisible. Get all five practices for writing about immigrant communities at radicalcopyeditor.com/blog.]
Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities: Practice 3: Don’t use criminalizing or inflammatory language.
[Image description: A cloud of speech bubbles contains the following: anchor baby, illegal, chain migration, flood, amnesty, hordes, criminal alien, rag-tag army, unending wave, the illegals, war zone, nabbed in ICE raid, rapists, illegal immigration onslaught, invasion, overrun, pouring in, alien minors, detainees. Text underneath says: A whole host of terms are being weaponized to paint people of color without papers as criminal and/or a threat. Don’t use or repeat language that portrays immigrants this way. The current U.S. immigration, refugee, and asylum systems are dysfunctional and overburdened, but the fault lies squarely with the U.S. government, not the people who are being subjected to these systems. Get all five practices for writing about immigrant communities at radicalcopyeditor.com/blog.]
Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities: Practice 4: Resist euphemistic language.
[Image description: Speech bubbles labeled “euphemisms” say: detention centers, federal migrant shelters, temporary emergency influx shelters, processing centers, family residential centers, migrant centers. Speech bubbles labeled“truth-telling” say: immigrant prisons and jails, prisons and prison-like facilities, so-call detention centers, pinche cartel, la perrera, federally-run and private-prison-run detention centers, concentration camps. Text underneath says: Don’t use euphemisms that mask the reality of inhumane treatment. Most so-called detention centers are actually for-profit prisons or county jails that contract with ICE. Get all five practices for writing about immigrant communities at radicalcopyeditor.com/blog.]
Re-Humanizing Immigrant Communities: Practice 5: Center the humanity and voices of those most impacted.
[Image description: A quote, from Mónica Novoa, in a speech bubble says: “We have to listen to directly impacted people who are the experts on how they want their humanity and conditions described, and how they want to make justice.” Text underneath says:
Take the time to use more words and be more descriptive. Because the very word immigrant has become a tool of dehumanization, using more descriptive language can re-center folks’ humanity.
Seek out and create space for first-person stories of people who have been detained and their families. Don’t privilege the perspectives of “experts” (policy, academic, and advocacy professionals) over the people being detained and/or deported (who are the real experts).
Don’t perpetuate binary, one-dimensional depictions of immigrants as either criminals or victims. Focusing only on pain and suffering paints people as passive victims in need of saving instead of full human beings and resilient and powerful agents of change.
Get all five practices for writing about immigrant communities at radicalcopyeditor.com/blog.]
What’s with the image descriptions? Folks who are blind and depend on screen readers can’t tell what’s in an image without a description, and images like these deserve a more thorough description than can be provided via alt text. You can learn more about web accessibility from WebAIM: Web Accessibility in Mind.