Reclaiming humanity for immigrants

On April 11, 2012, in Latest News, by The News Staff

Laura Gonzalez has struggled with the negative connotations of being labeled “illegal” for many years, even though she has actively sought US citizenship at every possible opportunity. – Photo by Harry Kane

By Harry Kane

Undocumented immigrants have an upward battle when it comes to becoming citizens, but on April 2 the youth advocates from a local organization for immigrant rights chalked up a victory.

In a unanimous vote among school committee members the use of the term “illegal” was deemed not appropriate to describe undocumented immigrants.

“It’s one of those things that you’re always constantly hearing when you’re growing up and it has a negative connotation,” said youth organizer for Centro Presente, Laura Gonzalez, 23, who moved to Cambridge when she was six-years-old from Colombia.

“Until you actually begin to understand what that is, a lot of the times you begin to internalize those feelings.”

Gonzalez grew up in a family of undocumented immigrants. To this day, she is still vying for US citizenship.

“I can relate to a lot of the youth that come here.”

For thirty-years Centro Presente has worked with the Latino community advocating for social justice.

Recently, The “Somos We Are” campaign sought to remove the negative connation associated with the word “illegal” in the attempt to rescue the humanity of the Latino community within Somerville.

At the hearing on Monday, April 2, Somerville School Committee members listened to three youth advocates testify why the word “illegal” should be discouraged from their daily vocabulary.

Rewind to the end of last year when students associated with the “Somos We Are” initiative visited Christine Rafal, school committee member for Ward 4, to ask for help in getting their motion passed.

Rafal recalls November of 2011 when a dozen undocumented teens asked for assistance in this initiative.

“It was a very modest request,” said Rafal.

Several months later a community school hearing was held at city hall to address the initiative.

Katherine Hernandez, 15, from the Winter Hill Community School was one of the undocumented students who testified on Monday.

“I had to cross a lot of borders to get here, and I hope that you will join me in crossing this one. The word ‘illegal’ is a barrier and tonight I ask that together we tell the city of Somerville and its schools to stop using words like illegal to describe human beings.”

Distinguishing between people who are criminals and those who are undocumented was the impetus behind the testimonials.

Hernandez had looked up the word “illegal” in the dictionary and much to her dismay she found it refers to someone that is “against the law.”

State Representative Denise Provost, D-Massachusetts, sees the shift in verbiage as a move in the right direction.

Provost said, “undocumented’ is more accurate and less pejorative, and the word ‘illegal’ is misleading and disrespectful because it suggests criminal action instead of a violation of civil law.”

Laura Gonzalez’s opinion of the motion is a huge victory because it says that the local government cares about the youth.

“When you look at the dynamic nationally there’s a huge anti-immigrant sentiment that is increasing every single day,” said Gonzalez.

Currently, there are almost 24 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., according to a website called http://www.immigrationcounters.com

Yet, The Department of Homeland Security released their findings recently, estimating a decline in undocumented immigrants since President Obama took office in 2009.

Still, Gonzalez feels there is a new “pool of immigrants” that strives for citizenship during election season.

 

11 Responses to “Reclaiming humanity for immigrants”

  1. BajaRat says:

    How utterly ridiculous. The correct term is “illegal alien.” These invaders are not “immigrants” and they are not “undocumented”… they have plenty of documents (all forged or stolen). I say build a wall and deport ‘em all.

  2. hacimo says:

    No Amnesty for Illegal scum. They are invaders, trespassers, freeloaders and thieves. They must be deported and the traitors who exploit them at the expense of honest american workers deserve jail and harsh fines.

  3. Ron Newman says:

    Did you read the article carefully? Laura was moved her with her parents when she was 6 years old. Six-year-olds don’t decide where they live. Laura is now as American as you or me.

  4. Harry says:

    Ron, you little old goofy commie – no, her parents came here illegally, so she is still here illegally. I don’t care if she came when she was 3 seconds old – to be a citizen you need to be born here or you need to apply to become a citizen. Her family didn’t do that. She and her family now needs to go back to Colombia and apply for citizenship. The same with that other one who claims she “crossed all sorts of borders to get here…” – didn’t they know when they were crossing those borders that what they were doing was illegal and criminal? Yes, they did. So now they need to go back and come here legally.

    If we’re not a nation of laws then what are we?

  5. Jerry Lawyer says:

    First of all, if you are going to beg not to be deported, please take off that silly hat. Show some respect. Second, if you were not born here, then you are not automatically a citizen and you are here illegally. Ergo, you need to leave or be deported, if that is more convenient. You are free to come back using the proper channels. Or if you can find a loophole through some lawyer, then go for it. But right now you are an illegal alien and there is no other way of putting it.

  6. Jerry Lawyer says:

    “there’s a huge anti-immigrant sentiment”

    And they always try to use this cheap trick! No, you little misleading rats, it’s not an “anti-immigrant” sentiment! It’s an anti-illegal-immigrant sentiment. Many of my colleagues and friends are immigrants and I have absolutely nothing against people who immigrate legally.

  7. hulk hogan says:

    Send her and the rest of her family back to where they came from and donor let them back because they have mouched off us (the real Americans) long enough give there benefits to the people that really needs them I mean look at her hat thats worth about 100$ who paid for that oh wait my bet I did and here I am can’t afford onion sandwiches and she’s wearing 100$ hat without out them ( illegal immigrants) there would be more money more jobs less crime and for those hippy dippy yuppies like little Ronnie u should go with them u unamerican dips ( oh ya I’m not racest I just hate everyone well not hate just dislike )

  8. Ell Muchacho says:

    This is OUR city. Mayor Curtatone told us that when he addressed us at Foss Park a few years ago. WE are here in Somerville with his blessing and support. Viva America.

  9. Winter Hill Barney says:

    “Illegal” doesn’t mean “inhuman” and never has. It does mean you broke the law, and are not legally entitled to be here. Blame your parents, not your neighbors.

    Unless people are willing to give up the entire concept of national borders, I don’t see how non-enforcement of our democratically enacted laws can be tolerated.

  10. THE ROCK says:

    I JUST WITNESSED THE BOSTON MARATHON AND THE WINNER WAS A KENYAN,WHO ALSO IS A GRADUATE OF U.K. WITH A DEGREE IN BIOLOGY.THIS MAN CAME TO THE U.S. LEGALLY WITH A VISA AND HAS FILED THE PAPERWORK TO BECOME A US. CITIZEN.THE PEOPLE THAT THINK THEY ARE ENTITLED TO BE IN THE US. ARE OUT OF THERE HEADS ALONG WITH ALL THE POLITICIANS , SHOULD BE JAILED FOR AIDING AND GIVING COMFORT TO THE ENEMY WHO ARE PROTECTING THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE INVADED OUR GREAT LAND.THE POLITICIANS TOOK AN OATH OF OFFICE TO UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION OF THE US. AND THE STATE,THE LAWS STRICTLY SAY ANYONE COMING INTO THE US,WITHOUT FOLLOWING THE PROCEDURES IN THE LAW OF OUR LAND ARE ILLEGAL.THIS AGAIN TELLS ME THAT OUR POLITICIANS DO NOT KNOW THE LAW ARE BREAKING IT THEMSELVES, WHICH TELLS ME THE SHOULD BE ARRESTED OR THROWN OUT OF OFFICE FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE LAWS OF THE US,WHICH THE TOOK AN OATH TO UPHOLD. THIS IS A DISGRACE WHEN THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE TAKES A VOTE TO TAKE AWAY THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF ITS US CITIZENS, TO PROTECT INVADERS OF THE US,THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW AND HOMELAND SECURITY SHOULD BE LOOKING INTO THESE WONDERFUL PEOPLE ON THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE,AS OUR MAYOR SAYS SOMERVILLE LEADS THE WAY AND THAT WILL BE RIGHT INTO RECEIVERSHIP.THE KEY TOPIC IS THAT EVERYONE OF THESE PEOPLE ARE DRAINING ARE SOCIAL RESOURCES AND WE ARE ON THE SAME ROUTE AS CALIFORNIA,THEY ARE BANKRUPT BECAUSE OF ALL THE ILLEGAL ALIENS WHO INVADED AND DEPLETED THERE SOCIAL SERVICES.WITH THAT THE US SHOULD ESCORT ALL THESE PEOPLE OUT OF MY COUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. THE ROCK says:

    We are a nation of laws ,when you you pick and choose what laws we obey,we become a lawless nation.There are steps to take if we want to change laws, but to use are roles in the offices we hold to make law it is an abuse of office and power,nothing new in somerville.The general public should keep up to date on our constitution,know there rights and the laws that protect us citizens of these united states of america,any way you look at it illegal is illegal.Our leaders should obey the law not give special treatment for people that have broken the law to get here.I did notice in a past issue that the mayor had his arm around convicts saying what a great job they have done for our city.This mayor of ours gave out union jobs to criminals some of which he might have represented before he became mayor.The tax money he said he saves goes right into his friends pockets for overtime,just check the weekly payroll,smoke and mirrors joe,fool the young urban professionals nice going.

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