Over a year’s worth: petitions to television programming jumped on the hideous language of “illegality” as applied to persons who have migrated from one territory to another. That no person should be named “illegal” is without saying —
funny (read: atrocious), how those ‘without saying things’ still need to be constantly said.
But is the term “undocumented,” any real improvement?
Is it any more respectful, accurate or truth-holding?
I think not…
What does it mean to be ‘documented’ in the first place?
Short answer: documentation of one’s existence, should be on everyone’s list as a privilege.
Children are born but alarmingly, many still, are not registered into sanctioned legal existence. And whatever one’s “Big Brother” fears may be, to have no registration of one’s birth, is not some would-be glam aspect of a wannabe ‘nomadology.’
The other issue is that migrating persons often do have documents from their home, their place of origin. In other words, they are not “undocumented” at large, any more than they could be said to be ‘illegal,’ but only with respect to the new territory in which they find themselves. This is an important distinction for the sake of truthfulness alone. Just ask what some random ‘+/- cosmo’ having lost their wallet, would submit to being called: “undocumented”? In the case of the privileged, the presumption is — a negotiable ‘carte blanche’ — in favor of a circumscribed, limited and transitory period of time. Shouldn’t we also be asking ourselves and others, why isn’t this temporary status afforded to immigrants? Shouldn’t the predicament of being newly-arrived in a foreign environment, also be a ‘temporary’ affair and not entail years of bureaucratically-induced paralysis, languishing, even PTSD… as is currently the case — more or less, worldwide? And shouldn’t the language we use to describe a person’s status encapsulate the nature of that status itself?
Having just been an immigration-hostage of a southern European country unexpectedly for seven years as I waited for a requested one-year visa (!) , I feel like I have every reason to weigh in on this argument… I have something to say about the horrendous insult and injury that defines most immigrations today. While everything imaginable went wrong, I consoled myself on how lucky I was by comparison.
The term I suggest is: “unsituated” because without local sanction a person cannot become situated, cannot hope to begin functioning, participating or contributing in or to their new environs. Unsituated persons are living in forced suspended animation that is damaging, useless and profoundly cost-ineffective. ‘Unsituated’ directs attention to the fact that the ‘un-‘ is a predicament of circumstance and that it should be temporary. A person can’t live their potential caught in suspended animation. There’s a reason we use the trope of being grounded for rights, reason and sanity… the loss of one’s ground is a harrowing reality; the abject disavowal of one’s existence and identity on the basis of law and documents can sometimes does make you insane — after all what actual choice do you have ‘to be,’ ‘be as…’, or ‘not be’?
The more we do to facilitate a peaceful transition and the sooner we get them & us situated, the better it can be for everyone.