On his Fox Business show on Wednesday, Eric Bolling hosted former Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo to talk about whether the Obama administration has "failed" on illegal immigration. The two discussed President Obama's recent remarks on the employment verification program E-Verify, which Obama said was "riddled with errors" and his call for a comprehensive immigration reform. Tancredo stated: "Every time they talk about and use the phrase 'comprehensive immigration reform,' read 'amnesty.' OK? That is what they're saying. ... Everybody should understand that."
As Tancredo spoke, several images flashed across the screen, including footage of Latinos running across green fields, standing by a highway, slipping through or clambering over what could be a border fence, and on their knees in the act of being arrested by border agents. Bolling then stated: "We need to point this out. This isn't about race; this is about jobs." He added: "There are 14 million Americans out of work right now, somewhere around, I don't know, 15 or 20 million illegals here."
During the segment, Bolling repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as "illegals" -- a racially charged and dehumanizing slur that the daily news site Colorlines believes "promotes [a] culture of intolerance and violence toward foreign nationals, undocumented immigrants, and people of color." Several news associations have called on the media to stop using the word as it can "skew public debate" on immigration. Indeed, the Associated Press Style Book specifically instructs readers not to shorten the phrase to exclude the word "immigrant."
From the manual's official entry for "illegal immigrant":
Used to describe someone who has entered the country illegally or who resides in the country illegally. It is the preferred term, not illegal alien or undocumented worker. Do not use the shortened term an illegal or illegals.
Santa Ana, a founding member of the César Chávez Center for Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained: "When you label a person as criminal, as illegal, it structures the way we think about those people. ... It's a strongly partisan perspective -- it shouldn't be a term newspapers should be using." He further stated:
"Each and every time that you say illegal immigrant, the characterization fully characterizes the individual as a criminal. It works against our sense of justice in this country to do that. ... Those modifying adjectives characterize people as their primary distinguishing feature, they're criminality. We don't think of a kid who skips school as an illegal student, and yet that's the same type of legal impropriety" associated with unauthorized immigrants.
"The worst thing you could do, however, is to characterize people as illegals -- not to use the adjective, but to use the noun because that becomes their singular characterizing quality."
Despite his insistence that "this isn't about race," Bolling frequently uses derogatory slurs to slant news coverage of immigration, while arguing that immigration reform "can't be good for the economy any way you slice it."
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