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Artículo de periódico

Are they illegal or illegalized?




Nicholas Keung


The Associated Press bans the use of "illegal immigrants." The UN calls them "irregular migrants." A Toronto professor refers them as "illegalized."


Toronto Star

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What should we call people who are in Canada illegally, without status or proper immigration documents?
Some call them “illegal immigrants,” while others refer to them as “undocumented,” “non-status,” “irregular,” “unauthorized” or “migrants without papers.”
The naming of this particular population is always a contentious and polarizing issue, causing heated and emotional debates between the enforcement-minded, who are in favour of a law-and-order agenda to keep them out, and their libertarian opponents, who believe in the freedom of movement to give them a pathway to status.
In April, the Associated Press announced it would no longer use “illegal immigrants.”
The term illegal, it said, “should describe only an action.” Instead, the AP suggested wordy alternative phrases, such as “person entering a country illegally” or “without legal permission.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also rejects the use of the term “illegal migration,” says a spokesperson in Ottawa, preferring “irregular” movements and migrants in order to define the movement of people across international borders who are “pushed by a variety of mixed motives.”
Last month, the Star ran a feature story profiling a Mexican family that came to Greater Toronto as visitors in 2007 and has remained here illegally. Some readers took issue with the story being labelled “The Undocumented,” arguing they should be referred to as “illegal immigrants,” with one reader going so far as to call them “criminal trespassers.”
‘Invisible’ population
So, how does one simple term solicit such a range of emotions and reactions?

York University linguistics professor Sheila Embleton says language can frame a debate, solicit different responses and shape opinions and attitudes.
“Language is powerful,” says Embleton. “Much of bullying, for example, is verbal. Much of it is words, not physical. Language is powerful in a lot of ways.”
More than 30 years ago, with the rise of feminism and a growing awareness of sexism, the English language was modified, at least in the media, to neutralize the gender of certain terminology, Embleton explains.
“Instead of saying chairman, we now use chairperson. Why does it matter if language cannot shape thoughts and images? Why do we care?” Embleton asks. “The language we use can be a conscious, political decision.”
In a recent City of Toronto study, this “invisible” population — estimated at anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 in the GTA alone — is referred to as the undocumented, failed refugee claimants dodging deportation or those who overstayed temporary work, student or visitor visas.
With the undocumented population is expected to surge in 2015, when four-year work permits for thousands of temporary foreign workers expire under a 2011 federal law, just the naming of the group can stir up a controversy.
Annoyed by the usage of “illegal migrants,” professor Harald Bauder, academic director of Ryerson University’s Centre for Immigration and Settlement, has released a research paper this month, advocating for the use of the term “illegalized immigrants.”
Bauder points out that the term “illegal migrants” portrays these people as “unwanted and non-belonging,” as well as “outlaws.” The term, he says, has a strong “racist and colonial” tone.
“Language is central to our thinking. The way we think is embedded in language. Through language, we construct the reality around us,” says Bauder. “By describing these people as illegalized migrants, we try to draw the attention to the processes that create them.”
Those processes, he says, are driven by globalization, a corporate world that relies on cheap labour and state policies that limit access to immigration status.
Modifying words by adding “ize” to highlight the processing of the being is not new, says linguist Embleton, as in “sexualize” and “racialize,” terms that have been adopted more commonly outside the academic world over the years.
“Illegalized captures the mind easily. The political statement rolls in quickly. Illegalized people are not inherently illegal, but made illegal,” she says. “It takes time but the new term stands a good chance to catch on.”
Changing the use of language does not happen overnight, as seen in the adoption of terms such as “undocumented” and “non-status.”
According to No One Is Illegal, a grassroots advocacy group for migrants with no full status, the usage of the term “illegal immigrants” in Canada’s English media has tripled over the last two decades — an indication of the growing prominence of the issue in the public discourse.
However, the group says, the usage of the word “undocumented” has multiplied by more than 10 times and outgrew that of “illegal immigrants” during the same period as a result of a successful effort by advocates to shift the language and reshape the debate.
Syed Hussan, a spokesperson for the national group in Toronto, says its attempt to popularize the use of “undocumented” and “non-status” is no different from former immigration minister Jason Kenney’s characterization of migrants as “bogus, fake and illegal.”
Having another new term to counter the establishment is welcoming, he says.
“We need to change the language so people understand the challenge these people face and appreciate the value and necessity of immigrants,” says Hussan.
However, a spokesperson for new Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says “Canadians have no tolerance for those who use fraudulent means to enter Canada, and abuse the system and our generosity.
“Those who seek to take advantage of Canadian generosity and come to the country illegally are just that — illegal immigrants,” Alexis Pavlich says in an email. “All visitors must meet the requirements to come to Canada, as set out in Canada’s immigration law. People in Canada without status are here illegally.”
A 2007 Citizenship and Immigration Canada survey found two-thirds of the 1,200 respondents were against “illegal immigrants” because they did not follow the rules.
Would the public respond differently in these surveys if the term “illegalized immigrants” were used in place of “illegal immigrants?”

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