Earlier this week WoodTV8 did a story on a “secret school for illegal immigrants” that was meant to reveal an undercover program designed to help undocumented children and youth who came here on their own.

I couldn’t help but be mad when I saw this. Here’s why:

The sensationalized title: I was honestly a little disappointed when I watched the actual story. It didn’t seem half as conspiratorial as the title suggested. The main reason for that being that the program offered by Bethany Christian Services is not actually “secret.” The information about the lives of the children in the program is secret, but that’s a critical distinction.

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Using the “I” Word: use of the word “illegal” primes the audience to already be against the children and the program that advocates for them.  “Illegal” is a harmful slur that dehumanizes and discriminates against immigrants regardless of migratory status. Many of the children/youth in Bethany’s UAC program are seeking Asylum from circumstances in their own country. This does not mean that they are here illegally, it just means that they are “in process.” If you don’t think that using “illegal” as a descriptor has a negative effect, you need not go far; the comment stream on the above story should suffice.

the economic benefit of immigrants:  the story highlights repeatedly how much money the government spends on programs such as these without mention of the net economic gain that immigrants provide this economy. Research shows that undocumented immigrants actually contribute more to public coffers in taxes than they cost in social services and contribute to the U.S. economy through their investments and consumption of goods and services; filling of millions of essential worker positions that results in job creation, increased productivity and lower costs of goods and services; and in contributions to Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance programs which they themselves do not benefit from.

Tools for action: 

Support Bethany Christian Services: they do awesome work in our community and really are not trying to just make a buck. Visit their website or give them a call to find out more.

Drop the “i” word: Applied Research Center (ARC) is a racial justice think-tank that is running a campaign to drop the “i” word, join the movement. Locally, there is a petition to get WoodTV8 to also drop the “i” word. You can sign that petition here. No human being is illegal.

Be informed: Do some research into the economic impacts of immigration, you will be surprised. And it is always a great conversation starter.