Students at the University of California, Los Angeles, are going to have to bite their tongues before using the term “illegal immigrant,” as the term has been banned by the school’s Undergraduate Students Association Council.
According to Campus Reform, a resolution criticizing the term “illegal immigrant” passed the student-run board unanimously Tuesday. The provision, called the “Drop the I-Word” resolution, states the phrase violates the human rights bestowed by the U.S. Constitution — namely the 14th Amendment right to due process — and stemmed from students’ reactions to former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s appointment as the University of California system’s next president.
“The racially derogatory I-word endangers basic human rights including the presumption of innocence and the right to due process guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution,” the resolution states.
Since the university announced it would nominate Big Sis to head the system — prompting her resignation from the Department of Homeland Security — students have spoken out against the administration’s decision. During Napolitano’s tenure at Homeland Security, a record number of illegal immigrants were deported, The Daily Bruin reported.
Additionally, undocumented students were left “feeling unwelcome” on campus, the paper reported.
The resolution was proposed after members of the school’s governing council attended the Student Association Congress and heard testimonies from undocumented students protesting Napolitano’s nomination.
“Calling someone illegal is calling them someone that does not deserve to exist,” Omar Arce, UCLA’s Community Service Commissioner, told The Daily Bruin. “Words have power. Words have the opportunity to define people and create context.”
UCLA’s resolution prompts campus partners, journalists and media organizations to no longer use the term “illegal” when referring to illegal immigrants, using the term “undocumented individuals” instead.
“… the use of the term illegals (the “I-word”) and its derivatives when referring to people dehumanizes and divides communities, contributing to punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color…” the resolution states.
UCLA isn’t the only institution shying away from the term illegal immigrant. The Associated Press announced in April it would drop the term from its Style Book. And the Los Angeles Times followed suit not long after.