Immigrants -- or refugees?

Latin Dish: Words matter, and we're using the wrong one

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LATIN DISH Whenever politicians start talking immigration reform it always reminds me of the story—perhaps chisme—about that guy, who, you know, burned his neighbor's house down, and then when the neighbors jumped over the fence to escape the fire, he complained bitterly, just bitterly, that they were trampling his rose garden.

It's the same with the pejoratives "illegal alien," or in a kinder mood "undocumented worker." Both of these terms, like the phrase "immigration reform," are tricks with words to hide the true status of this unique community.

Just think about the language for a minute. These 12 million human beings, this mass of humanity that has flooded over the southern border of the US, are neither illegal nor undocumented. The precise and accurate English word is refugees.

Why are they refugees? For the most part, the great majority of them are fleeing some sort of political, economic or military chaos—the metaphoric burning house.

You want to know who is burning down the house?

US foreign policy is like a match setting fire everywhere, a sort of scorched Earth in regards to Latin America.

Just so we don't recount a whole catalogue of arson that is the story of US-Latin America relations in the last century, here's a current example, that of Honduras, somewhere in Central America.

Even a democrat like President Obama couldn't resist kicking out the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, in the middle of the night, as if he was a banana worker. I'm talking about the president of the country known as Honduras. The president. Sent out of the country in his pajamas in the middle of the night before the astonished eyes of Latin Americans, a noble action in support of a decrepit oligarchy that has impoverished the country for more than a hundred years as if in a magical-realism novel. And this coup d' etat, this destabilization of the country, ushered in a whole new level of chaos with total impunity for the oligarchy and the military.

In the aftermath of that tragic June day, hundreds of people would be killed or disappeared. Journalists were assassinated at will. A country so on fire it now holds the sad distinction as the most violent place on earth, more violent deaths per capita than Iraq, Afghanistan, West Oakland or La Misión. Cartels up the yin000-yang — even the US Peace Corps pulled out, couldn't handle the heat. Are we clear about this?

Now remind me — how many refugees were created by this chaos, by this sickening rerun of the banana-republic-soap-opera bullshit of the 20th century?

Then after his quick knock out in Honduras, President Obama showed his true hand by deporting 400,000 refugees a year in the greatest forced migration in human history. Many of these deportees were sent back to — Honduras, the house he just set on fire.

So you see — it's a two-faced game, with a perfect cycle of opportunism.

Here's part of the hypocrisy with this phony immigration reform debate. For the politicos — they only pontificate about their own little border. But this chaos doesn't just destabilize the sacred border of the US, but also the southern border of Mexico, of Guatemala, of Belize, you know, the domino effect, something that politicos don't talk about because they have no knowledge of geography.

Now why not use the word refugees? And since the US has just been re-elected to another three-year term on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, shall we stop the name calling and get serious about the issue?

Comments

.....are mostly indigenous/mestizo people from rural villages in Central and South America. They do not want to leave their family and friends to live in a country where they are despised, persecuted, and exploited just because of their appearance. Spoiled, lazy, arrogant, clueless Americans cannot imagine how hard conditions must be to borrow money to travel hundreds or thousands of miles just to be able to try and feed your family. The exploitation of the poor and dark peoples of the world continues unabated. But that's the "free market" and "democracy" at work.....

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

p.s. Mexico may be part of the North American continent, but culturally it is part of Central America.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

I would be happy to call immigrants from Latin America and other countries "refugees" if the U.S. had ever shown any consideration for refugees. But the fact is, the U.S. routinely locks up asylum seekers, often for years while their case is under consideration. In the end, many of these people end up being deported anyway. For that matter, a number of American citizens have been deported. From 2005 until 2012, the budget for ICE detention operations more than doubled. This is largely driven by the profit motive, as lobbyists for the private prison industry lavish money on legislators.

That said, I believe the word "refugee" is more accurate when you consider U.S. foregin policy and the history of U.S. oppression in Latin America which you and Joseph Thomas have pointed out. I'm glad that there is this debate over the words we use to describe our neighbors, friends and co-workers who happen to be foreign born. Because words do matter. And we are talking about human beings who are an integral part of our communities. Not some "alien other"

I prefer the word "immigrant" plain and simple, without any embellishment (no "undocumented", no "illegal"). I think it shows the most respect because it doesn't create a special class that sets them apart from the rest of us (we are all immigrants, except for Native Americans). And I see these folks as Americans regardless of their immigration status because anyone who has lived through the terror of U.S. policy in their homeland, and then summoned the courage to strike out for a better life, fully deserves to called an American. Because that's what Americans do...have always done.

Posted by Ana on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

Amen.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 7:24 am

I was born here. I am the descendant of immigrants, but I am a native to this Country. I am not a descendant of any of the tribes of the First Nations (love that Canadian term).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

are an arbitrary human concept whose usefulness (if there ever was any) has long passed. The pro-capitalist, free-market loving commentors should be advocating for open borders if they truly believe in free trade and free markets.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Most of Europe also has open borders, meaning there are turks working in Ireland, and Spaniards working in Norway.

That doesn't mean that everyone should be able to show up here, although I do welcome the downward pressure that would put on inflation.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

Different countries have different values, rules etc. we choose to separate ourselves from others so that we can live according to our rules and values and others can live according to theirs. To each his own.

Posted by D. native on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

along with "LOL, Huh, So,".. and others I can't think of right now... that begin a comment title and signify that a completely worthless comment is to follow.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 8:08 pm
Posted by D. native on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

While the idea that people should be freed to move just as freely as capital, the problem of overpopulation becomes just as unmanageable -- or perhaps more so -- than the generation of anthropogenic global warming gases; if nations can export their population problem freely, there will be no impetus to solve it where it exists.

I think the answer is the control of capital flight so that it can't be used as a cudgel against the people.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

Even more so now when a billion can be wired in a second.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 6:52 am

Has the US made poor choices and done bad things in Central America, absolutely, but that does not make us responsible for the welfare of all the citizens there. Sorry, but when you look at it, the US actually has a pretty liberal immigration policy compared to other countries.

Posted by D. native on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

in the book 1984.

The goal of the left here is to change language to suit their agenda. Oddly they get worked up over the miss use of language by the right, the left gets all worked up over "pro abortion" but wants us to use these terms they dream up.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

There are discrete policy choices which both push and pull Latin Americans to the US.

The imposition of brutal regimes for most of the 20th century as a central pillar of US foreign policy pushed people north.

Those regimes made it so that natural resources and cheap labor in these places were available to US corporations for at rock bottom prices, the products of which artificially raised the standard of living in the US.

Many folks came north to get their share of resources that were stolen from them by brutal regimes that had them voting with their feet. In both cases, political and economic, US foreign policy was the central causal factor.

We own the consequences of our country's foreign policy whether it be 9/11 or Latin American immigration.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 9:51 pm

Oh, yeah, if you don't like immigration from Latin America, change US policy so that we don't foster brutal dictatorships and we trade with them as peers instead of taking what we want.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

Mexico has stricter immigration laws and enforces them, does that mean that Mexico has some sort of ideological dept going on too?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Mexico

Illegal immigration has been a problem for Mexico, especially since the 1970s. In 2006 Mexico detained more than 182,000 people who entered the country illegally, mainly from nearby Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, all being Central-American countries neighboring Mexico to the south. Smaller numbers of illegal immigrants come from Ecuador, Cuba, China, South Africa, and Pakistan.[3]

Posted by matlock on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

I wonder what the over-all consequences would be if every nation's currency were the same value as all the others. If everyone got compensated at the same rate for their labor, then would companies take their jobs elsewhere? Why would they? Well, to answer my own question, maybe the labor protection laws in one country would be more bothersome to management than in another. But still, if all the currencies in the world were the same wouldn't that lead to less emigration? Wouldn't that remove one of the reasons for "capital flight", since the advantage of the exchange rate of one nation's currency as opposed to another's would no longer be in play.

Anyway, it seems to me that now that globalization of corporate operations is in full swing, perhaps all the different currencies ought to be worth the same amount in wage-power and buying-power. One world economy? i guess there's people that'll really hate that idea since there's probably people who are regularly making money doing currency exchanges. And who knows what other ways one can profit on the different exchange rates?

Posted by GuestAunt Tom on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

I wonder what the over-all consequences would be if every nation's currency were the same value as all the others. If everyone got compensated at the same rate for their labor, then would companies take their jobs elsewhere? Why would they? Well, to answer my own question, maybe the labor protection laws in one country would be more bothersome to management than in another. But still, if all the currencies in the world were the same wouldn't that lead to less emigration? Wouldn't that remove one of the reasons for "capital flight", since the advantage of the exchange rate of one nation's currency as opposed to another's would no longer be in play.

Anyway, it seems to me that now that globalization of corporate operations is in full swing, perhaps all the different currencies ought to be worth the same amount in wage-power and buying-power. One world economy? i guess there's people that'll really hate that idea since there's probably people who are regularly making money doing currency exchanges. And who knows what other ways one can profit on the different exchange rates?

Posted by GuestAunt Tom on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

I wonder what the over-all consequences would be if every nation's currency were the same value as all the others. If everyone got compensated at the same rate for their labor, then would companies take their jobs elsewhere? Why would they? Well, to answer my own question, maybe the labor protection laws in one country would be more bothersome to management than in another. But still, if all the currencies in the world were the same wouldn't that lead to less emigration? Wouldn't that remove one of the reasons for "capital flight", since the advantage of the exchange rate of one nation's currency as opposed to another's would no longer be in play.

Anyway, it seems to me that now that globalization of corporate operations is in full swing, perhaps all the different currencies ought to be worth the same amount in wage-power and buying-power. One world economy? i guess there's people that'll really hate that idea since there's probably people who are regularly making money doing currency exchanges. And who knows what other ways one can profit on the different exchange rates?

Posted by GuestAunt Tom on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

It didn't work and was abandoned.

The current failures of the Euro are further evidence that artificial attempts at centralized control never work.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 6:53 am

Strangely enough - what about Marco Rubio (Cuban) or those from Argentina, Chile or Brazil?

There's not a lot of room in this leftist dogma for many outside of Alejandro's perspective.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 1:23 am

Pinochet from Chile, Peron from Argentina.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 08, 2012 @ 9:46 am

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