Jose Antonio Vargas and Define American have made big strides with our partners in getting the media to stop calling people “illegal.” Together with Drop the I-Word, GLAAD, Presente.org, The National Hispanic Media Coalition, The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, MoveOn.org and others, we’ve reached lots of journalists and everyday people who just needed the information to understand how the term is inaccurate, dehumanizing and racially charged. Now there is a major opportunity for another cultural shift with Congressman Bobby Rush taking action to change policy language as well.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced House Resolution 155 in April, asking his colleagues to use more humane and respectful language and to not refer to human beings as “illegal.” Currently HR 155 is being co-sponsored by Henry “Hank” Johnson, (D-GA); Eleanor Norton, (D-DC), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Marc Veasey (D-TX).
In getting rid of the i-word people are freer to talk about solutions and the human dignity of people who are central to the immigration debate and leading the call for human rights. This is needed not only in the media, but in Washington, D.C. and anywhere policy is made.
Vargas had the following to say about the Congressman's efforts:
"Words matter: words shape perceptions which impact actions. That's why we are grateful for Rep. Rush for his leadership on this effort. We await our congressional leaders and other elected officials–of all parties, across the country– to be on the right side of history. Actions are illegal, not people–never people."
In the 1970s the Carter administration got rid of the i-word so it is totally plausible that administrations at all levels can do it again. The following elected officials don’t describe people as “illegal”: Sen. Maizie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Rep Luis Gutierrez (D- Ill), Rep Karen Bass(D-California), Rep John Lewis (D-GA), Rep John Conyers (D-Mich), Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
Congressman Rush has started a petition on MoveOn.org asking people to reach out to their local elected officials to support his work. He says:
“I grew up in a time where people of color were given numerous labels and called horrific names. I have worked though my youth into the present to fight against all of those negative labels. Because of this, I cannot stand aside while other groups are marginalized by the labels placed on them by others, so I will join with them to prevent such atrocities from continuing.”
You can support the Congressman's efforts and reach your member of Congress via the MoveOn petition here: