Immigrants Protest ‘Illegal’ Label

Lauren R. Harrison, Newsday, August 20, 2012

A small group of immigrants gathered in Woodbury Monday to protest the use of the word “illegal” to describe those who have entered the United States without documentation.

“By saying illegal, they’re assuming that we broke a criminal law,” said Jackeline Saavedra, 27, of Bay Shore, a Touro Law Center student who identified herself as undocumented. “Not everybody enters illegally.”

Coordinators said they prefer the phrase “undocumented immigrant.”

Osman Canales, 23, an immigrant rights advocate in Huntington who organized the protest, said using the word “illegal” criminalizes a whole community. “It’s a racist word against our community, so we’re just here to raise awareness,” he said.

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The “Drop The I-Word” campaign was organized by The Applied Research Center, a New York City-based racial justice think tank. {snip}

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Still, the word “illegal” makes Elias Llivicura, 18, who described himself as undocumented, feel “uncomfortable.”

“We also have feelings too,” said Llivicura, of Bellport, who came to Long Island from Ecuador at age 8. “It makes me feel like I’m different from everybody else,” he said. “It makes me feel like really bad inside.”

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