In general, I know what the meaning of the word “alien” is. In the broadest sense, we can extrapolate the definition to mean “strange,” “foreign,” or, more positively, “exotic.” Something or someone that is particularly different in nature. But when you think of the word “alien” (go ahead, think about it right now), the gut reaction that occurs isn’t necessarily an embodiment of those aforementioned benign terms. As perpetuated by countless Hollywood flicks in conjunction with the sci-fi industry, the modern connotation of the word “alien” indicates a concept very different than what Merriam-Webster suggests. We equate the word “alien” to mean, at best, an “other worldliness,” or, at worst, having a subhuman aspect or lacking human qualities. The word, in the most common and pejorative sense, indicates an extreme difference from us – the human race, that is – and what we are fundamentally.
Yet, it is universally acceptable to refer to “immigrants” – human beings merely leaving one country to live in another, mind you – as “aliens.” When this terminology became so widely used, I’m not sure. But one thing is for certain: “immigrants” are not the functional equivalent of “aliens.”
Immigrants are people. Immigrants are human beings. Immigrants are you, and immigrants are me – especially in the United States. All of our ancestors originally hailed from another country during the past 200 years or so. We can’t quite write off that history, now can we? I mean, don’t we consider our descendants “people”? Don’t we consider ourselves “people”? How can we consider other individuals in the identical situation any differently than we see ourselves or our lineage?
Cognitively, labeling “immigrants” as anything other than “people from other lands” makes no sense. And yet, the United States, as of late, has been treating these “people from other lands” as if they actually meet the subhuman suggestion of the word “alien.”
The video above is one such example of what’s inherently wrong with the continued usage of the word “alien,” because it depicts the inhumane treatment of individuals that are given these subhuman attributes. In the excerpt, June Everett claims that Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had information about the special health conditions of Sandra Kenley, her detained sister. Sandra had high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and she required specific medication in order to keep these health issues under control. ICE was acutely aware of this, and yet, officials didn’t regard these concerns as crucial. Instead, they carelessly issued her the wrong pills, and in the 50 minutes that transpired between the time emergency services were summoned until the time they arrived, Sandra died. Yet ICE claimed she died as a result of a heart attack from high blood pressure, without any mention of the misadministration of her medication.
Oh, and by the way, Sandra? She was a 52 year old grandmother who had been living legally in the United States for 33 years. Yeah. Could’ve been your grandmother, couldn’t it? It very easily could’ve been mine.
The ICE official in the video claims that “deportable aliens” are receiving “the best healthcare” while in custody. My question is simply: Really? Because – correct me if I’m wrong – “the best” would usually entail delivering the proper medication for a known, documented ailment, right? I mean, normally, you’d think so. “The best” would also entail a high degree of accuracy, wouldn’t you argue? I mean, I would. Unless the detainees were viewed as unworthy of “the best” available care, and thus, “the best” is mere lip service to what actually occurred and is occurring. You know, treatment reserved for those that are perhaps viewed as “inhuman” – nay, “alien” – in the eyes of the government.
According to the further testimony of the ICE representative, while one million individuals have passed through ICE custody, only 66 of them have died. While that number barely equals one percent of all individuals detained (if we truly believe this statistic), it still strikes me as questionable. Why do any detainees have to die while in custody at all? Further, what is ICE doing to these individuals to precipitate their deaths? And would these detainees have died had they not been taken into custody? It seems that in Sandra’s case, we can speculate that she would not have perished, unless she regularly made the mistake or was predisposed to making the mistake of taking the wrong medication for a chronic medical condition on her own accord.
Lest we forget, there’s a fundamental issue here: these are lives of human beings we’re talking about. Not subhuman creatures and most certainly not numbers. And 66 of these lives shouldn’t be taken lightly, no matter what the ratio of survival. Are these lives being treated as sacred as they should be? Or is there – more likely – another component to these deaths than the sweeping explanations we’re receiving?