They don’t mean “immigrants”

Last week local news station KXAN ran a story on how robbers were targeting “immigrants” who might be afraid to report assaults to the police. They reminded viewers that because of recent beatings and deaths of “immigrants” that APD has a policy of handling crime reports without respect to immigration status. Therefore, no one should be afraid to report a crime.

As I listened to the story, the reporter used the word “immigrant” over and over to describe the targeted group. Yet I realized she didn’t mean immigrants at all. My husband is an immigrant. He legally immigrated to the United States from England two decades ago and is now a US citizen. He works at a company full of legal immigrants–from Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and Bulgaria. None of these people were the topic of this story.

No, the topic of this story was illegal immigrants from Mexico or Central America. Only once did a person interviewed refer to the targeted group as “Mexican nationals”. Never did anyone in the story prefix immigrant with “illegal”. “Immigrant” was clearly being used as a code word for Hispanic–and yet in some bizarre attempt to avoid an ethnic slur, they tarred all immigrants (include legal Hispanic immigrants) with the same brush.

Worse, when we substitute “immigrant” for “Hispanic” we encourage the kind of discrimination taking place in the Dallas suburb Farmers Branch. This bunch does not differentiate between Mexican nationals here illegally and Americans of Mexican descent, some of whom are descendents of people settled in Texas before it became a state. Take Susie Hart of Farmers Branch who is quoted as saying, “This is the first town in Texas that had the guts to do what’s right. The education system is tanking, health care has gone through the roof, everybody is bilingual.”

Sadly, despite my immigrant husband’s degree from Oxford University, he is not bilingual. But I reckon Susie Hart wasn’t talking about him when she voted to make English the official language of Farmers Branch. Let’s recognize this as a clear attack on those who speak Spanish whether they are longtime citizens or workers here illegally. Don’t let the news media gloss it over with umbrella terms like “immigrant”. It’s unfair to legal immigrants and it buries the anti-Hispanic feeling that should be exposed so that it can be uprooted.

3 Comments so far

  1. Deb (unregistered) on November 13th, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s one of my pet peeves!! Here in El Paso we face the same thing on a daily basis.

  2. Mark (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 5:07 pm

    I don’t understand your point at all.

    Are you saying that the word “immigrant” does not include people who are in the country both legally and illegally? I think you’d lose that fight with a dictionary.

    Or are you saying that the radio station is somehow craven for refusing to specify exactly which population they’re talking about?

    It seems very odd for you to say that they really mean “Hispanic,” since this term encompasses not only both kinds of immigrants but people, descended from Spanish-speakers, who were born here and who, in fact, might not even speak Spanish as their first language.

    Finally, there are many people in Texas, and in the US as a whole, who do not have current visas yet who are not “Hispanic.” One of the largest groups of undocumented workers in the US is, for example, Irish.

    So either you have psychic abilities which allow you to discern the actual subject of radio reports even when the text of the report (as you recount it) does not support your conclusion, or you are simply jumping to conclusions and getting a lot of ideas mixed up at the same time.

    Give it another try. The internet has plenty of space.

  3. mss (unregistered) on November 16th, 2006 @ 6:42 pm

    Mark. I can see you don’t understand my point. I’m saying exactly that: immigrant refers to both legal and illegal immigrants. Therefore, when KXAN runs a story about people who are targeted for crimes of robbery and assault because the perps know they are afraid to report them, they weren’t talking about legal immigrants, were they? And when they showed a visual, in Spanish, of the Capitol Metro bus slogan that APD Chief Ellison says is, ” a way to let immigrants know that they can go to police.” I don’t think she’s talking about the Irish among us. And when she goes on to say, “We’ve had several robberies of Mexican nationals over this past year.” she is specific. But KXAN refuses to be.

    And that’s what got my rant up.

    Do you really think Farmers Branch voted English as the official language because they hate Gaelic?

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