Oberlin Blogs

The Power of Euphemism

February 9, 2009

Alice Ollstein ’10

Operation Streamline

Official Definition: A program that brings low-level criminal charges against virtually all illegal immigrants caught crossing parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. (Washington Post)

My Definition: A waste of court time and taxpayer money that further criminalizes and dehumanizes immigrants. Oh, and it doesn't work. I met a Oaxacan family in Altar (mother, father and two children) who had just been deported who said they had been told that if they were caught in the U.S. again, they would get five years in jail. They were attempting to cross the next day. "If they throw me in jail, will you visit me?" the mother asked me.

Pertinent Question: What exactly is being "streamlined"?

Lateral Repatriation

Official Definition: A program to reduce the loss of life and deter smuggling organizations (Mexican Embassy).

My Definition: Two teenage brothers cross together at Nogales, Arizona. They are caught by the Border Patrol. One is deported in Tijuana, the other in Nuevo Laredo, Texas. They have no way to find each other and are in frightening and unfamiliar cities. I spoke to several people who had this happen to them.

Pertinent Question: Why should we be paying for the separation of loved ones, not to mention the carbon footprint of the unnecessary transportation?

Work-Site Enforcement Actions

Official Definition: "Actions that target a key component of the illicit support structure that enables illegal immigration to flourish." (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

My Definition: Violent, often sloppy raids on factories, restaurants and other businesses that run U.S. companies out of business, tear families apart and support the booming prison industrial complex. Several cases are pending where migrants are suing the ICE for denying them food, water and bathroom usage during their detention.

Pertinent Question: Can our shaky economy survive without this labor?

Structural Adjustment

Official Definition: Dramatic reform of a country's economic policy to promote growth and reduce poverty (World Bank)

My Definition: Your country can't pay its debt to my country, so I get to tell you how to reformat your entire economy to benefit my industries and displace your population. Then, when you become even poorer and your people flee to my country for a shot at survival, I send them through Operation Streamline and then Lateral Repatriation. See how neatly it all fits together? Aren't euphemisms fun?

Pertinent Question: How much longer can we get away with this?

Responses to this Entry

Thank you Alice for your comments. Sadly, there are very few people like you who are not afraid to speak in favor of those who have no voice at all. Those people who risk their lives crossing the border, so their families can eat.

You are probably one in a million, because not many people know the reality and frankly, they do not care to know it, the majority of people finds it easier to blame and judge the ones who cannot defend themselves in neither side of the border.

Posted by: Guadalupe Mejia on February 10, 2009 9:22 PM

Wow. Thanks a lot for your blog. It's been both eye-opening and upsetting to read about the injustices occurring in the immigration system. I would like to think that we can't get away with this for much longer, and thanks for bringing some of this to light to help move along that process (by the way, I'm a future Oberlin student, and I'm very interested in both Latin American Studies and your study abroad program. Keep writing!).

Posted by: Kira on March 14, 2009 11:38 AM

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