Category Blog

Why ‘illegal immigrant’ is a slur

Check out CNN’s explanation and opinion piece by Charles Garcia on why he believes that “illegal immigrant’ is a slur.


Why ‘illegal immigrant’ is a slur

By Charles Garcia, Special to CNN
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Thu July 5, 2012
A supporter of Arizona's immigration policy pickets outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in April.A supporter of Arizona’s immigration policy pickets outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in April.

Editor’s note: Charles Garcia, who has served in the administrations of four presidents, of both parties, is the CEO of Garcia Trujillo, a business focused on the Hispanic market. He was named in the book “Hispanics in the USA: Making History” as one of 14 Hispanic role models for the nation. Follow him on Twitter: @charlespgarcia. Lea este artículo en español/Read this article in Spanish

(CNN) — Last month’s Supreme Court decision in the landmark Arizona immigration case was groundbreaking for what it omitted: the words “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens,” except when quoting other sources. The court’s nonjudgmental language established a humanistic approach to our current restructuring of immigration policy.

When you label someone an “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant” or just plain “illegal,” you are effectively saying the individual, as opposed to the actions the person has taken, is unlawful. The terms imply the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal.

In this country, there is still a presumption of innocence that requires a jury to convict someone of a crime. If you don’t pay your taxes, are you an illegal? What if you get a speeding ticket? A murder conviction? No. You’re still not an illegal. Even alleged terrorists and child molesters aren’t labeled illegals.

By becoming judge, jury and executioner, you dehumanize the individual and generate animosity toward them. New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes says “illegal” is often “a code word for racial and ethnic hatred.”

Charles Garcia

Charles Garcia

The term “illegal immigrant” was first used in 1939 as a slur by the British toward Jews who were fleeing the Nazis and entering Palestine without authorization. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel aptly said that “no human being is illegal.”

Migrant workers residing unlawfully in the U.S. are not — and never have been — criminals. They are subject to deportation, through a civil administrative procedure that differs from criminal prosecution, and where judges have wide discretion to allow certain foreign nationals to remain here.

Another misconception is that the vast majority of migrant workers currently out of status sneak across our southern border in the middle of the night. Actually, almost half enter the U.S. with a valid tourist or work visa and overstay their allotted time. Many go to school, find a job, get married and start a family. And some even join the Marine Corps, like Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, who was the first combat veteran to die in the Iraq War. While he was granted American citizenship posthumously, there are another 38,000 undocumented soldiers defending our country.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and three other justices, stated: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” The court also ruled that it was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment.

As Kennedy explained, removal of an unauthorized migrant is a civil matter where even if the person is out of status, federal officials have wide discretion to determine whether deportation makes sense. For example, if an unauthorized person is trying to support his family by working or has “children born in the United States, long ties to the community, or a record of distinguished military service,” officials may let him stay. Also, if individuals or their families might be politically persecuted or harmed upon return to their country of origin, they may also remain in the United States.

While the Supreme Court has chosen language less likely to promote hatred and divisiveness, journalists continue using racially offensive language.

University of Memphis journalism professor Thomas Hrach conducted a study of 122,000 news stories published between 2000 and 2010, to determine which terms are being used to describe foreign nationals in the U.S. who are out of status. He found that 89% of the time during this period, journalists used the biased terms “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien.”

Hrach discovered that there was a substantial increase in the use of the term “illegal immigrant,” which he correlated back to the Associated Press Stylebook’s decision in 2004 to recommend “illegal immigrant” to its members. (It’s the preferred term at CNN and The New York Times as well.) The AP Stylebook is the decisive authority on word use at virtually all mainstream daily newspapers, and it’s used by editors at television, radio and electronic news media. According to the AP, this term is “accurate and neutral.”

For the AP to claim that “illegal immigrant” is “accurate and neutral” is like Moody’s giving Bernie Madoff’s hedge fund a triple-A rating for safety and creditworthiness.

It’s almost as if the AP were following the script of pollster and Fox News contributor Frank Luntz, considered the foremost GOP expert on crafting the perfect conservative political message. In 2005, he produced a 25-page secret memorandum that would radically alter the immigration debate to distort public perception of the issue.

The secret memorandum almost perfectly captures Mitt Romney’s position on immigration — along with that of every anti-immigrant politician and conservative pundit. For maximum impact, Luntz urges Republicans to offer fearful rhetoric: “This is about overcrowding of YOUR schools, emergency room chaos in YOUR hospitals, the increase in YOUR taxes, and the crime in YOUR communities.” He also encourages them to talk about “border security,” because after 9/11, this “argument does well among all voters — even hardcore Democrats,” as it conjures up the specter of terrorism.

George Orwell’s classic “Nineteen Eighty-Four” shows how even a free society is susceptible to manipulation by overdosing on worn-out prefabricated phrases that convert people into lifeless dummies, who become easy prey for the political class.

In “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Orwell creates a character named Syme who I find eerily similar to Luntz. Syme is a fast-talking word genius in the research department of the Ministry of Truth. He invents doublespeak for Big Brother and edits the Newspeak Dictionary by destroying words that might lead to “thoughtcrimes.” Section B contains the doublespeak words with political implications that will spread in speakers’ minds like a poison.

In Luntz’s book “Words That Work,” Appendix B lists “The 21 Political Words and Phrases You Should Never Say Again.” For example, destroy “undocumented worker” and instead say “illegal immigrant,” because “the label” you use “determines the attitudes people have toward them.”

And the poison is effective. Surely it’s no coincidence that in 2010, hate crimes against Latinos made up 66% of the violence based on ethnicity, up from 45% in 2009, according to the FBI.

In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell warned that one must be constantly on guard against a ready-made phrase that “anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.” But Orwell also wrote that “from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase … into the dustbin, where it belongs” — just like the U.S. Supreme Court did.

Taller de Danza Ecuatoriana en el Festival Andino/ Ecuadorian Dance Workshop at Andean Festival

Ecuador Sumagllacta crée en la importancia de enseñar a nuestros niños sobre las riquezas de nuestra cultura milenaria, es por eso que decidimos compartir el arte de la danza para nuestros niños de la comunidad.  Los pequeños ya tienen ese don, lo traen en la sangre. Al escuchar la música Andina sienten esa alegría y lo manifiestan por medio de la danza.  Representando la comunidad de Otavalo, ésta foto fue su primera presentación en el festival Andino en Junio 24, 2012. El mejor regalo fueron los miles de aplausos que recibieron del público.


Ecuador Sumagllacta believes in the importance of teaching our kids the richness of our ancient culture. This is why we decided to share the art of dance with the children of our community. Small ones already have that gift; they have it in their blood. When they listen to Andean music they feel the joy and manifest it through dance. Representing the community of Otavalo, this photo shows their first presentation in the Andean festival of June 24, 2012. The best gift they received were the thousands of applauses from the public.

-Monica Aviles

LEGAL WORKSHOP: Deferred Status for Dreamers and Family Unity Waiver

This past Thursday (June 21), attorney at law Mercedes S. Cano from Centro Comunitario y de Asesoría Legal Inc., joined us to explain the new Dreamer Law ordered by U.S. president Obama on Friday June 15, 2012 and the new Family Unity Waiver proposed by Homeland Security last April. She highly recommends contacting an immigration attorney to make sure that you are eligible for either of the new laws.

The Dreamer law will stop deportations of certain undocumented youth and give them work permits for two years with the ability to renew for another two years. Although this law is effective since June 15, 2012, the actual application process has not been defined. The attorney advised to avoid scams and not send any applications until the federal agency for immigration services (USCIS) announces the forms, process and cost of application in approximately sixty days. You can check out the agency’s website for any updates at

Those eligible to apply:

  • Must be at least 15 years old to apply
  • Must have been present in the United States on June 15, 2012
  • Undocumented youth that arrived to the United States before the age of 16
  • 31 years old as of June 15 or younger
  • Currently living in the United States and have lived for at least 5 years before the Dreamer law was effective on June 15, 2012
  • Attending school, or have a high school diploma or GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces.
  • Clean criminal record or have not been convicted any major crimes (felony offense, significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses)
  • Must not otherwise pose a threat to national security of public safety.

Ms. Cano made emphasis that this law will not give you a green card, or citizenship. If you are approved a work permit, you may travel within the United States and show the document to officers in the country. However, it will not grant you entrance to the United States if you leave.

The new Family Unity Waiver is a new procedure that will allow certain immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens request a waiver for the 3 or 10 year penalty that makes them inadmissible for an immigrant visa prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications. This means that certain undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens will not have to spend 3 or 10 years outside of the country before applying for their green card. This new process will be in effect within 180 days, so don’t send your applications yet.

 You can apply for the waiver if you are:

  • The spouse, child or parent of a U.S. Citizen
  • Undocumented but whose only infraction to the law was entering without documents, if you have other grounds of inadmissibility the Family Unity Waiver is invalid.
  • Currently living in the United States
  • You must be able to show that your U.S. citizen relative will suffer extreme hardship is you were not here (you provide significant income, emotional and psychological support and

The waiver does not:

  • Create a lawful immigration status or extend any authorized period of stay
  • Toll the accrual of unlawful presence
  • Protect you from being placed in removal proceedings or removed from the United States
  • Provide the right to obtain advance parole, the right to enter the United States or be granted any other immigration benefit (i.e. employment authorization)
  • Guarantee issuance of an immigrant visa or admission based upon the immigrant visa

-Diana Diaz

Politics as Performance, an Evolving Art

Jason Gaspar, left, demonstrating food preparation with homegrown vegetables at Immigrant Movement International headquarters. 

Holland Cotter
New York Times
June 21, 2012 

Para la versión en español siga bajando.

Artists have always blurred the lines among art, life and politics. Joseph Beuys planted thousands of trees as ecological sculpture. Gordon Matta-Clark stockpiled useless slivers of Manhattan real estate to illustrate the absurdity of property ownership. The tradition continues in the work of the Cuban-born artist Tania Bruguera, who has created the equivalent of a full-time performance piece called the Immigrant Movement International in Corona, Queens.

Conceived  as a gesture of solidarity with people living illegally in countries not their own, the movement has headquarters in a storefront on Roosevelt Avenue. There, free and seven days a week, a tiny staff and a roster of volunteers, many of them artists, offer a program of practical assistance and consciousness-raising activities to neighborhood residents, many of whom are new arrivals from Ecuador and Mexico.

Services include legal advice and computer instruction, but there are also reading lessons that double as introductions to art history, with an emphasis on the difficult lives of artists in the past; health classes that incorporate meditation and tai chi, linking an isolated Latin American population to the borough’s Asian cultures; and theater workshops that function as safe places to work out stress, reimagine reality and rehearse political interventions.

One goal of the Immigrant Movement International, defined in a collectively written manifesto, is to bring the cause of civil rights for immigrants into the public sphere. How to do so effectively is the question. And this is the focus of a series of community meetings, the first of which I sat in on last week.

It was evident from the discussion that the merging of life and art that Ms. Bruguera envisions is still an evolving concept here. Some people wanted straightforward protest marches; others mulled subtler forms of mass demonstration learned from, among other sources, Occupy Wall Street, with its roots in street theater. What was clear was that everyone — about 50 people — understood the basic politics-as-performance idea and were ready to go with it.

When Ms. Bruguera first set up the project in Corona in 2011, with financing from Creative Time and the Queens Museum of Art, skeptics assumed that it was an artist’s ego trip and that she wouldn’t stay. A year and a half later, and with most of the money gone, the work is still in progress, and Ms. Bruguera is still there, living over the storefront.

Is it art? Tired question, to which nearly half a century of history responds: yes. For sure, it’s art I’ll be following this summer. Both before and after the Chelsea galleries close for vacation, a lot will be happening in community meetings in Corona, as more ideas for election-year actions are sketched out, then firmed up and filled in, like paintings. How often do you get to see art conceived, refined and finished as you look?

Click here to see the original article.

La Política como performance; Un arte en evolución.

Holland Cotter
New York Times
El 21 de Julio de 2012 

La Política como performance; Un arte en evolución.

Los artistas siempre han difuminado los límites entre arte, vida y politica. Joseph Beuys plantó miles de árboles como una escultura ecológica. Gordon Matta-Clark cortó pedazos de bienes raices de Manhattan para ilustrar lo absurdo de la propiedad privada. La tradición continúa con el trabajo de la artista cubana Tania Bruguera, quien ha creado el equivalente de una pieza de performance a tiempo completo con el Movimiento Inmigrante Internacional en Corona, Queens.

Concebido como un gesto de solidaridad con la gente que vive indocumentada en países que no son los suyos, el movimiento tiene su sede central en la avenida Roosevelt. Ahí un pequeño personal y muchos voluntarios, en su mayoria artistas, ofrecen gratuitamente una serie de actividades de asistencia práctica y de concientización a los habitantes de la comunidad, de los cuales muchos llegaron recientemente de Ecuador y México.

Los servicios ofrecidos incluyen asesoría legal y computación, pero también hay clases de lectura que al mismo tiempo enseñan historia del arte con énfasis en las vidas arduas de artistas en el pasado; clases de salud que incorporan meditación y Tai Chi, conectando una población Latinoamericana aislada con las culturas asiáticas del barrio; y talleres de teatro que sirven como espacios para trabajar el estrés, reimaginar la realidad y ensayar intervenciones políticas.

Uno de los objetivos del Movimiento Inmigrante Internacional, que se define en un manifiesto escrito colectivamente; es traer la causa de los derechos civiles de los inmigrantes a la esfera pública. Cómo hacerlo con eficacia es la cuestión. Y este es el tema central de una serie de reuniones de la comunidad, en la primera de las cuales observé  la semana pasada.

Era evidente en la discusión que el concepto sobre la fusión entre la vida y el arte, que la señora Bruguera prevé, es un concepto en evolución en este lugar. Algunas personas querían marchas directas de protesta, mientras que otros reflexionaban sobre formas más sutiles de manifestación masiva aprendida, entre otras fuentes, de los ocupantes de Wall Street, con sus raíces en el teatro callejero. Lo que estaba claro era que todo el mundo – cerca de 50 personas -  entendieron que la idea básica de política como performance y están dispuestos a realizarla.

Cuando la señora Bruguera configura por primera vez el proyecto en Corona el 2011, con el financiamiento de Creative Time y el Museo de Arte de Queens, los escépticos asumieron que era un viaje para el ego del artista y que ella no iba a quedarse. Un año y medio más tarde, y sin poder contar  con la cantidad del dinero que tuvo el año anterior, el trabajo está aún en curso, y la Sra. Bruguera sigue ahí, viviendo en el proyecto.

¿Es esto arte?  Pregunta agotada, para la cual medio siglo de historia responde: sí. Por supuesto, es arte y estaré siguiéndolo este verano. Tanto antes como después que las galerías en Chelsea cierren por las vacaciones, mucho va a estar sucediendo en las reuniones comunitarias en Corona, a medida que se esbocen más ideas para acciones en un año electoral, que serán a continuación concretadas y rellenadas, como pinturas. ¿Con qué frecuencia se llega a ver la concepción, refinamiento y acabado de una obra de arte,  ante tus ojos?

Check out Megafone at QMA tomorrow at 4PM!



Jueves 21 de Junio,  2012 - 7 PM 
Movimiento Inmigrante Internacional 

Taller Legal con la  abogada Mercedes Cano sobre la nueva directiva de Obama con respecto a los Dreamers y el Permiso de Union Familiar

Thursday June 21, 2012 - 7 PM
Immigrant Movement International 

Legal workshop with lawyer Mercedes Cano on Obama’s new policy regarding Dreamers and the Family Unity Waiver


Join us for the Springmavera gardening project every Tuesday morning!

This week Springmavera workshop leaders Jason and Marco taught the group how to make a nutritious kale salad, and a guest representative came to speak with us from the TIERRA-A-MESA Community supported agriculture Co-op. Jason and Marco started off the session by explaining the nutritional benefits of kale, the newest addition to our backyard garden, and then gave us a step-by-step demonstration on how to prepare the kale salad, as well as providing us with a recipe for later use for when our kale grows. The presentation given by the representatives of the Co-op TIERRA-A-MESA reminded us of the added value of eating fresh and locally farmed produce.

TIERRA-A-MESA offers baskets of locally produced vegetables and fruits with over 50 varieties of produce for its members. Non-members are encouraged to visit the farm and take a tour, participate in their weekly workshops, and attend acupuncture sessions. The Community Co-op, TIERRA-A-MESA is part of “Community Supported Agriculture” (CSA), and is located on 37-53 90th St. in Jackson Heights, Queens. By becoming a member of CSA, you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer (for more information visit their website). We were told that for those who don’t have transportation, free transportation is provided in order to attend their “Talleres de Comida Sana” and everything else offered by the organization.

Here is Jason and Marco’s Kale Salad recipe, Enjoy!

Kale Salad (Ensalada de Col Rizada)

  • One bunch of kale (un grupo de col rizada)
  • Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds (un puñado de pepitas de calabaza tostadas)
  • One avocado (un aguacate)
  • One or two apples, sliced (uno o dos manzanas, rebanadas)
  • Juice of two lemons (el jugo de los limones)
  • Olive oil (aceite de oliva)
  • Honey (miel)
  • Salt and pepper, as much as you like (sal y pimienta al gusto)

Cut the kale into strips (rehydrate in water if it is wilted for 30 minutes). Add apples, lemon juice, honey and olive oil. Leave in the refrigerator for at least six hours, then remove and add avocado, toasted pumpkin seeds and salt and pepper to taste.


-Annie Abram






Sign up to Volunteer for “Citizenship through English” with New York Cares!

5:30 – 7:00 pm 

Beginning on June 13th, IM International will be offering “Citizenship through English” classes in collaboration with New York Cares.  This workshop is intended to prepare immigrants for the citizenship exam by practicing their informal conversational skills and reviewing US history.

Click here to sign up to volunteer!

Participants can register for the class by emailing us at or by calling 718 424 6502.





From the Art World, the Party of Migrant People Emerges

Sonia Sierra | El Universal
Martes 29 de mayo de 2012

En español

A proposal initiated by Cuban artist Tania Bruguera

If one speaks using a politician’s discourse, with strategies to create a political party, it’s possible that art may be a means to reach them and permeate their discourse.

This is why artist Tania Bruguera has proposed the creation of the Party of Migrant People, (Partido del Pueblo Migrante, PPM), that has been taking form since December 2011, and has been preceded by Immigrant Movement International in Corona, Queens, New York.

Yesterday, after announcing the launch of the PPM in the Historical Center of Mexico City, several voceadores (newspaper vendors) – in reminiscence of past times- brought together by the artist to announce the opening of PPM, and the addresses of organizations and spaces for migrants, the party will be launched in the campaign headquarters at Centro Cultural Casa Talavera, located at Talavera 20 in the Historical Center, during an event that will be held at 6:00pm.

Newspaper vendors invited people to attend the launching and chanted slogans such as: “The Party of Migrant People, an option for those who don’t have one,” “Because you could be the next migrant” and “Migrant Vote”, which is the action that will take place on July 1st.

This piece is initiated by the Cuban artist and produced by the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, created within the context of the Mexican presidential elections to which the initiator points to the lack of a political platform that includes migrants as a political subject and priority.

Given that Mexico is a country where migration is one of the most important issues, due to its border with the United States among other reasons, is that this political party has been proposed from this place.

“It is about trying to incorporate the issue of migration into the discourse of the presidential candidates, with more visibility that the one that is currently being given by them. It’s a main issue in the lives of many Mexicans and, they, however, are addressing it as a secondary issue, the idea is to try to give more visibility to the migration problem here, since the government has neglected this situation and how civil and religious associations have taken responsibility in solving migrant issues.

Types of Migrants

Bruguera states that there are different ways of categorizing migrants: one: those who leave; two: those who leave and have to come back; three; those who are passing by, and four; those who stay.

“Mainly” –says the artist through a phone interview – “people talk about Mexican migrants that go to the United States and send remittances. We have to show that the government, with the little attention that it provides, gives most of its attention to migrants who send remittances, however they are not addressing those migrants that are passing through from Central America, Asia, from China, with respect, or those who have come back due to the economic crisis or have been deported.”

With regard to migration, the artist states that much has been discussed in Mexico, such as the idea of having a migrant sanctuary, but many proposals have fallen through.

“We are interested in criticizing the professional life of politicians, which is closely related to great powers, like banks or Televisa, and disconnected with the interests of the people.”

What Can Be Done with Art

Tonight, Casa Talavera will give out memberships to the party, slogan stickers will be distributed around the city and, meetings with public associations will be held for all citizens, migrants or not, to participate in.

“What I am looking for is, that migrants, a social group that has no representation of any sort, can have that representation. They are people to whom no laws of any country work, laws from their own countries don’t represent them, laws from the country they arrive to don’t either and they do not recognize them as people.”

From Bruguera’s point of view, the artist is a citizen that must be responsible and art institutions must be centers where collective and citizenship models can be proposed. “What makes artists different is that they have a type of language that allows them to create a reality before it actually exists and that it can be shared with people.”



Yaniireth Israde | El Reforma
Martes 29 de mayo de 2012

En español

Mexico City (May 29, 2012) –The Party of Migrant People, intended to be a “useful art” project, was launched tonight at Casa Talavera in the Historical Center, which will be the headquarters of the initiative.

Just as politicians use art resources for their campaigns – for example in their videos – artists propose using political tools to influence social transformation, Tania Bruguera explained, the promoter of the project sponsored by Sala de Arte Público.

“This is why we call it the Party of Migrant People, using the language of politicians, so that they understand that we are a citizen force that intends to intervene in political plans”, she states.

In the face of the upcoming elections, a module for people to affiliate to the party and obtain a membership card was installed yesterday. With this, people will participate in a symbolic gesture next July 1st by depositing their vote in ballot box and evaluate migrant policies of the political parties that are contending in the elections.

Some of the actions of the group include voceadores, newspaper vendors, handing out information for migrants with tips about dangerous places or conditions for crossing the border so that they will not risk their lives.

Every Monday at 6:00pm meetings will be held at Casa Talavera where people who are interested can contribute their ideas on upcoming actions.