Language Surrounding the Ending of Title 42

By Collin Derrig, Global Cleveland’s Civic Engagement Specialist and Research Coordinator

On May 11th, 2023, the COVID-19 pandemic era public health policy Title 42 ends and a brand-new set of Asylum rules go into effect. Under Title 42, the Trump and Biden Administrations were able to rapidly expel migrants crossing the southern border back to Mexico without having to go through the full legal process required for deportation.

The ability to seek Asylum at the southern border was halted for the last three years. As a result, tens of thousands of people have been waiting for their chance to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border

Desperate to find safety from violence, from climate change disasters and from economic hardship, not only for themselves but for their children, these people – like many of our own ancestors – have come to America seeking refuge, seeking opportunity, seeking freedom. 

The end of Title 42 and the introduction of new Asylum rules bring with it confusion. During this confusing time, it is important to remember that the language we use and hear used to describe people plays an integral role in how we process and react to the world around us. 

Across radio, television, and social media, we are seeing headlines, articles and statements describing migrants at the border as a “surge” or an “invasion.” Many alarmists and conspiracy theorists connect people at the border to crime and to drug trafficking, framing migrants as a threat to be stopped despite data consistently showing that immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

These uses of imagery and language are not new, in fact, descriptors like these have been used against immigrants coming to the United States as long as the United States has existed. Stereotyping immigrants as dangerous or threatening was false two hundred years ago, false one hundred years ago and remains false today. 

The use of these stereotypes is dangerous for immigrants and people of color. It dehumanizes them and normalizes racist and nativist ways of thinking, ways of thinking that have all too often been cited by extremists who have committed acts of mass violence. If we are going to create a welcoming Cleveland with a welcoming culture, how we use language is key. 

Whether you are writing a headline, posting on social media, or talking to a loved one about immigration related issues, remember to refer to the people at the center of it all as people and to avoid using framing devices that imply that immigrants and migrants are threatening or dangerous. Words have power, words are how we process the world. Let us use words responsibly.

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