Dartmouth CoFIRED Attempts to Ban the “I-Word”

CoFIRED sent this poster in an email telling campus about the event.

CoFIRED sent this poster in an email telling campus about the event.

On Monday, March 31, Dartmouth CoFIRED (Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality, and DREAMers) hosted an event on dropping the “I-Word.” The usage of the “I-Word”—the term illegal immigrant—is often frowned upon by certain supporters of immigration reform and those who immigrated illegally to the country. The effort to end the use of the term on campus closely follows a line in the Freedom Budget that calls for “[banning] the use of “illegal aliens”, “illegal immigrants”, “wetback”, [sic] and any racially charged term on Dartmouth-sanctioned programming materials and locations.”

A point commonly made by those who oppose the use of the term illegal immigrant—including those at the CoFIRED event—is that “No human being is ‘illegal.’” Opponents of the term illegal immigrant often argue that term dehumanizes immigrants who often come to the United States in search of greater economic opportunity and that these immigrants should not defined by one illegal action. In lieu of the term illegal immigrant, they prefer the term undocumented immigrant. Furthermore, it was repeatedly emphasized during the event that being in the United States without authorization is a civil, not criminal offense. However, despite what was said during the event, illegal entry into the United States is in fact a misdemeanor—a criminal offense.

The event started with an exercise asking attendees to provide their preferred term for someone who has immigrated to the United States without legal authorization. Participants provided the terms human being, illegal immigrant, and undocumented immigrant, among others. Then, there were short lectures by faculty speakers explaining how illegal immigrant is a loaded term that encourages discrimination and racial stereotyping. Finally, the event concluded with panel of three Dartmouth students who provided deeply personal and emotional stories about their lives having immigrated to the United States illegally.