Second, under current law, crossing our southern border illegally, whether as a misdemeanor or a felony, is a crime sometimes leading to loss of life without due process–without arrest, charge, representation, judge, or jury. Since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] in 1992, in an effort to control the movements of laborers it knew it was displacing, the Federal government began knowingly sending illegal immigrants to their deaths via border militarization.
Fourth, sensitivity over the term did not originate with migrants. It originated with immigration advocacy insiders. Illegal immigrants often refer to themselves as “illegals”. So do their loved ones. In the days following the passage of HB 56, Alabama’s notorious anti-immigrant law, I listened to a woman in Alabama who had driven 3 hours to address a gathering at the Capitol building in Montgomery. She said, “My name is Rebecca. I’m married to an illegal. I worry every day that he won’t come home.” The translator corrected her. “My name is Rebecca,” he said, “and I’m married to an undocumented man.” It is a problem betraying a lack of respect for illegal immigrants when advocates talk down to, and become suspicious of, the very people they say they are advocating for. By the same token, I have been in situations where I was afraid for my safety because volatile militiamen were present. I have heard them spewing venom against the “undocumented immigrants” they wanted to drive out of Alabama. As a shibboleth separating good guys from bad guys, “undocumented” simply doesn’t work.