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ATLAS:DIY BLOG

September 11, 2013
An Open Letter to WSJ's Joe Palazzolo

Mr. Palazzolo,

I came across an article of yours yesterday about a young undocumented immigrant (Sergio Garcia) who’s being denied a legal license because of his immigration status. As an officer in an immigration law-based non-profit, this story is not news to me – in fact, we’ve reported it several times ourselves in the past few months. However, you did bring up interesting points that I did not know about the case; and I came away with a far clearer understanding of the issue than I had prior. After finishing, I hit the “share” button only to be stopped in my track by one ugly word: “illegal.”

For someone new to this topic, it may seem strange that this seven-letter word had the power to sway me from sharing your article (and in fact, search Google for another article on the topic to send to Twitter). But I have seen the ugly effects a word can have. By labeling someone as “illegal,” you effectively remove their humanity. That person is stripped of all rights – no longer fit for sympathy. Deporting 11 million people sounds horrible, but “11 million illegals”… No human is illegal Joe Palazzolo.

Nor is it the right legal term – despite what reform opponents will argue. What is illegal? Murderers, rapists, and child molesters are all defined as legal people who have committed illegal – and heinous – acts. Yet they deserve a fair trial and are given the benefit of assumed innocence until proven otherwise.”Illegal” persons, by contrast, have no rights. Their existence is a crime, and every hour they remain in the country is a count against them for which they will have no trial or representation. Their prosecutors are the thousand pointing fingers of politicians and media personalities (such as yourself) and for them, there is no burden of proof.

Can we truly be surprised, then, when someone like Rep. King compares undocumented immigrants to livestock? While his remarks are a bit more extreme than your usage of “illegal,” they accomplish the same end: the dehumanization and othering of a community of people.

No human being is “illegal” Joe Palazzolo, and its time to stop using hateful rhetoric to justify hateful goals.

Sincerely,

Mohammad Chughtai
Director, Technology and Social Media – Atlas: DIY

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