LatinaLista — For quite a while now, various Latino leaders have taken the podium to warn Congress that their inaction on immigration reform is impacting not just undocumented Latino immigrants, but U.S.-born Latinos of all generations.
This warning has mostly fallen on deaf ears since there is an assumption made that most people should be able to identify an undocumented Latino from one who is a citizen. People who falsely assume this are usually people who don’t even count Latinos as among their close friends, let alone know any.
Which of these Latinos is a citizen and which is undocumented?
If they did know any Latinos, then they would also know that the differences between someone who is illegally in the United States versus someone whose family can be traced back generations aren’t that visible.
Maybe that’s why news media outlets have taken to always including the citizenship status when talking about Latinos in the news.
As one journalist asks, “Is Immigration Status like Race?
The most recent example of where the immigration status of a Latino is used in describing the person is the criminal who raped Chandra Levy.
It seems some newspapers are leading their identification of killer and rapist Ingmar Guandique with his illegal immigration status while other news outlets are identifying him simply as a “Salvadoran immigrant” or “Salvadoran laborer.”
Ingmar Guandique, accused killer of Chandra Levy
Of course, those who want the public to think that all undocumented immigrants are hardcore criminals and people to be afraid of, not to mention that their presence spikes criminal activity â€” which has been documented to NOT be the case â€” want newspapers to include immigration status when identifying Latino criminals.
It’s a sad day at those newspapers who incorporate this description in their copy because they are sensationalizing the news story rather than letting the story present the facts in an unbiased manner.
But in these days of declining readership, I guess newspaper editors will grasp at whatever they can to draw in readers.
However, there are very good arguments as to why citizenship status should not be included when talking about Latinos in the news.
1. It sets a horrible precedent because any future story dealing with a Latino will have to clarify whether or not the person is undocumented. We are seeing this happening already in Texas where broadcasters have had to emphasize to the audience that a particular Latino featured in a given story was not an “illegal immigrant.”
2. Citing the citizenship status of a person plants the negative assumption into people’s minds that an immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, are bad people to be avoided. While common sense should supplant this negativity, it’s human nature to stereotype, especially when the same descriptor is used in reference to people who are being reported as having committed horrendous crimes.
3. The citizenship status of a person has no bearing on a crime. If it did then we should also include such descriptors as poor, illiterate, rich, spoiled, etc. A crime is a crime. Finding a motive should be left to the prosecutors and not to news editors or producers.
It’s clear that those in favor of identifying criminals by their immigration status want to perpetuate fear in the general public of undocumented immigrants.
The real fear should be of criminals who have no conscience or morals and think nothing of taking a life â€” and the realization that some of the worst criminals can be the people who look least likely to commit a crime.