More

Think you know the difference between criminal aliens and undocumented immigrants?

It's become apparent we may need a refresher course on human versus non-human beings.

Think you know the difference between criminal aliens and undocumented immigrants?

During the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4, 2016, Republican candidate Mike Pence referred to undocumented immigrants as "criminal aliens" at least three times.

When the topic turned to immigration, moderator Elaine Quijano asked Pence what he would tell undocumented immigrants who have not committed violent crimes and wish to stay in this country. That's when he uttered a two-word phrase that needs to quickly be removed from our shared vocabulary: "criminal aliens."

GIF from PBS Newshour.


Look, we get it. It's hard! Despite years of activists working to disassociate the word "alien" (and "illegal") from immigrants, sometimes your eyes don't work properly or you're real tired or something, and law-breaking extraterrestrial beings do look a whole lot like human beings just looking for a better life for themselves.

But have no fear. We're here to help you tell them apart!

This is a criminal alien. He's from outer space.

GIF from "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial."

He's from another planet, and he's running away from the cops. Technically, he also just kidnapped a bunch of kids on bikes.

This is an undocumented immigrant. She's doing homework.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

She's a high school sophomore and, like many high school students, she's doing her homework. She came to America with her family in 2000. Her dad works in construction.

The majority of undocumented immigrants say their number one reason for coming to the U.S. is to find a better life, inspired by the promise of the American dream.

This is a criminal alien. He's under arrest.

GIF from "Man of Steel."

His name is Zod and he's a former Kryptonian general. He's also definitely not from planet Earth. He was accused of treason and banished to the Phantom Zone. When he escaped, he tried to destroy Superman and take Earth down in the process. So, yeah, he's not very nice.

These guys are undocumented immigrants. They're also brothers. They helped with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

Undocumented Mexican laborers Hermenegildo, Juan, Amadeo, and Juan Sanchez take English lessons in a church shelter for migrant workers in New Orleans. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

These brothers traveled together from their hometown of Paso Amapa, Mexico, to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck. They, like many others, came to the area to help with much of the cleanup work in the wake of the storm.

These are criminal aliens. They're from Mars.

Image from "Mars Attacks!" ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection.

They tried to invade Earth in the 1996 movie "Mars Attacks!" and unlike undocumented immigrants, their heads explode when they hear the song "Indian Love Call."

This is a group of immigrants. They're eating dinner.

Immigrants at the Casa Del Migrante shelter, part of the Coalicion Pro Defensa, which aids immigrants and asylum applicants seeking entry into the United States. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

As of 2014, just over half of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are Mexican. Believe it or not, the estimated number of immigrants moving from Mexico to America has decreased since 2009, down from 6.4 million to 5.8 million in 2014.

This is a criminal alien. He's in a police lineup.

GIF from "Guardians of the Galaxy."

His name is Groot and he is an extraterrestrial being. He was arrested with the other "Guardians of the Galaxy" after he and his friend Rocket Racoon tried to capture another alien named Gamora, who was trying to take the Cosmic Cube from a human named Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. Their story, while exciting, is a work of fiction.

This is an undocumented immigrant. She's a mom,  a community activist for immigration rights, and a small business owner.

Undocumented Mexican immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra holds her 3-month-old daughter Zury. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

She came to America with her husband in the late '90s, and all three of her children were born here and are American citizens. Research shows that first generation immigrants commit less crime than native-born Americans. When it comes to second generation immigrants, the crime rate increases, but doesn't exceed the crime rate among native-born Americans, which makes sense, because a second generation immigrant was, most likely, born here.

This is a criminal alien. He's under serious arrest.

Image via ©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection.

His name is Loki and he's both a frost giant and an Asgardian prince. He was arrested for throwing an epic temper tantrum in New York City and leaving billions of dollars of damage and destruction in his wake.

This is an undocumented immigrant. She's a child with a doll and brightly colored gloves.

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll Rodrigo after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States with her family. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Crossing the border is not a decision made lightly. People crossing the border illegally risk their lives, traveling however they can, often in overcrowded vehicles and across dangerous terrain trying to find a better life for themselves and their families.

So, what's my point here?

The point is that saying "criminal aliens" instead of "undocumented immigrants" invokes the subtle implication that immigrants are sub-human or, even worse, not human at all.

Fortunately, language can change and terms are fluid so it's important to point out the obvious distinction between aliens from outer space who wish harm to planet Earth and human people coming in from another country simply because they want a better life for themselves and their families.

Saying "undocumented immigrants" reinforces the notion that undocumented immigrants, whether they arrived in the country through legal means or not, are still human beings deserving of dignity and respect.

Using terms like "illegal alien," or worse, "criminal aliens," as freely as Mike Pence did during the vice presidential debate, only perpetuates the implication that individuals who are in the country illegally are not really people at all.

It's time to retire that hurtful and inaccurate descriptor. We are all from this planet and deserve to be treated as such.

And if anyone brings up these terms and you get confused as to which is which, feel free to pull up this handy guide for an instant refresher.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tom Ward / Instagram

Artist Tom Ward has used his incredible illustration techniques to give us some new perspective on modern life through popular Disney characters. "Disney characters are so iconic that I thought transporting them to our modern world could help us see it through new eyes," he told The Metro.

Tom says he wanted to bring to life "the times we live in and communicate topical issues in a relatable way."

In Ward's "Alt Disney" series, Prince Charming and Pinocchio have fallen victim to smart phone addiction. Ariel is living in a polluted ocean, and Simba and Baloo have been abused by humans.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

Heather Cox Richardson didn't set out to build a fan base when she started her daily "Letters from an American." The Harvard-educated political historian and Boston College professor had actually just been stung by a yellow-jacket as she was leaving on a trip from her home in Maine to teach in Boston last fall when she wrote her first post.

Since she's allergic to bees, she decided to stay put and see how badly her body would react. With some extra time on her hands, she decided to write something on her long-neglected Facebook page. It was September of 2019, and Representative Adam Schiff had just sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence stating that the House knew there was a whistleblower complaint, the DNI wasn't handing it over, and that wasn't legal.

"I recognized, because I'm a political historian, that this was the first time that a member of Congress had found a specific law that they were accusing a specific member of the executive branch of violating," Richardson told Bill Moyers in an interview in July. "So I thought, you know, I oughta put that down, 'cause this is a really important moment. If you knew what you were looking for, it was a big moment. So I wrote it down..."

By the time she got to Boston she has a deluge of questions from people about what she'd written.

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less