When I found out Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, proposed that the federal government replace the word 'alien' and 'illegal alien' in its laws and official documents with the term 'foreign national' and 'undocumented foreign national' I let out an emphatic and primal ‘Yaaasssss!!!!!’ Not because passage of his proposal is likely, but because there was somebody in the halls of Congress that would think to propose this overdue idea at all.
I’m not a fan of political correctness. It’s usually license for terrible behavior and doesn’t push the conversation forward. I am, however, a fan of political truth and the truth is words matter. They are the seeds that grow into hate or empathy and they have real life repercussions in the every day life of our country.
What do you think of when you hear there word 'alien'? Is it the grandmother who has a regular morning chat with you on the bus? The sweet deli guy that knows how you want your coffee as soon as you walk in the door? Or is it the monster that claws its way out of Sigourney Weaver’s belly in the iconic movie? Do you think of ‘aliens’ as people who sit next to you in church and work tirelessly in the fields picking the fruit that fills your supermarkets for a few dollars an hour? Or do you think of them as little green men that troll trailer parks at midnight to perform painful probes on innocent humans?
'Aliens' are indecipherable and their goal is to enslave or destroy the inferior human race, which preys on our patriotic insecurity. A foreign national is a person that looks at the Statue of Liberty standing anxiously on the deck of a boat waiting to dock and start making the great American Dream a reality with their grit and determination. Usually wearing a fab hat and thick wool blanket over the only dress they own. Immigration Reform will not happen if Americans refuse to remember that at one time, the desperate ‘alien’ hoping for a new life was their great great grandparent. Maybe the appropriate terminology of ‘foreign national’ will jog their memory.
And let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier to stay quiet about the deportation of millions of ‘aliens’ than to acknowledge that the government has torn millions of human families apart. 'Aliens' are easy to keep at an arm's length. But the outstretched arm of an undocumented foreign national mother being taken away from U.S. born six year old demands our voice.
Congressman Castro is challenging that lazy and outdated verbiage. He is speaking out for a community whose every accomplishment is a rejection of the fear and loathing lesser politicians try and peddle. And not only is he embracing the beautiful history and resilient strength of the constituents that put him into congress but he’s also speaking for those who have worked for decades in this country, been a huge part of our economy and our cities and have never had the privilege of a vote.
By taking the action of demanding more of our government's words, Joaquín Castro is challenging them to embrace the new American reality. And the sooner they get around to understanding they are dealing with a potent and rich force, the sooner they will be able to harness the stunning power our foreign nationals will have to offer once they know they can do it, freely.