Unabashed Nazism?

Readers chime in on last week’s cover story

“You left water in the desert for illegals?” sparks some letters

No Person Is Illegal

I’m disappointed that you chose to use the word “illegals” in your cover story for your August 16 issue [“You left water in the desert for illegals?”].

No person is illegal. They may not be here legally, but they’re still human beings. I don’t think this is even a matter of being PC — this is about showing respect to your fellow man. I wish people would remember America’s origins, as the only people who were ever legally here in the beginning were Native Americans.

On a tangent, I’ve written a few album reviews for the Reader, and while I’ve appreciated making the side money from time to time, I really am not sure that I’ll contribute to this magazine in the future due to this headline.

  • Jessica Bristow
  • City Heights

Hydration salvation

Hydration salvation

Photograph courtesy Jackie Arellano

The Term Is Dehumanizing

Re: “You left water in the desert for illegals?,” cover story, August 16.

I’m just another person who has an issue with the title for this cover story. Using the term “illegal” as part of the title to the article was the wrong choice. Sure, it has everyone’s attention. Bravo! What’s wrong with it is that it brings normalcy to the term “illegal.”

Most people who read your paper don’t know that term is dehumanizing. However, thanks to your title, now they’re further assured it’s just used to describe immigrants. You could have made it clear that the title was a quote in the article made by an ignorant person. Or come up with a better title and article that truly describes what we’re doing and why.

Anyway, I hope the San Diego Reader will step up and apologize for setting a wrong example to the community.

  • Name withheld
  • Via email

We Are Living in times of Unabashed Nazism

Re: “You left water in the desert for illegals?,” cover story, August 16.

I’ve determined my letter is appropriate and complete in its relative entirety and we feel collectively represents our sentiments well. Please print it as our statement.

I’m writing to express my concerns and deep disappointment in this article and the way your publication chose to use the story of our volunteers and the deadly migrant struggle. Especially but not limited to your use of “Illegals” not only in the title (which I will address shortly) but also “illegal immigrants” within the article itself.

I don’t feel that I, a mental health professional with no experience in journalism, am telling you anything new when I remind you that the Associated Press no longer sanctions the use of the term “illegal immigrant” because it is a dehumanizing and offensive term. In light of our political climate which is also something you are aware of, I find distasteful at best and actually dangerous to our community that you chose to highlight that language as clickbait in order to grab attention and readers and ultimately advertising dollars.

I am not brand new and neither are you nor are the others who made this decision — this was not an oversight. You did not punctuate the title sentence with quotes, you did not asterisk it with an explanation, you did not footnote the use of this language as unacceptable. This was a cover story of a known controversial topic and this passed several desks. You used it strategically to garner attention, and garner attention you did. One glance at your Facebook page and its comments will show you that it brought people in droves to talk about “illegals” and they felt comfortable doing so not only because they are brazen and hateful but because your publication began that conversation with that word as its first impression.

We are living in times of unabashed Nazism, our organization is constantly under scrutiny, and we are vulnerable but no one is more vulnerable than the human beings we have made it a mission to protect for three decades. Our community has worked harder than I can even impress for years to change the narrative about our people. Words matter. Language matters. Again, you are journalists, and that reality is the cornerstone of what you do.

When human beings are reduced by language to subhuman and “illegal” they are left at risk for violence and continued persecution. Every hate group has utilized dehumanizing language, and fighting against that takes the tireless expenditure of emotional energt. But we have made progress however small. To have that progress dismissed and worse capitalized on in the process is tasteless and dangerous.

But you won’t feel that danger from your office, our people will. You aren’t yelled at about “illegals” when gathering your people, we are. I realize the article as a whole was a flattering one, but we as an organization do not compromise on dehumanizing language and its devastating impact on our people.

  • Jacqueline Arellano
  • City Heights

I Myself Am Caucasian

Re: “You left water in the desert for illegals?,” cover story, August 16.

I want to thank you for writing the article and bringing light to the Border Angels Water Drops and for coming along, as it’s not an easy hike! I’ve been volunteering with them for many months now and was excited for this article to come out. That being said, there are a few things that I feel should be corrected in the article.

Firstly, the title refers to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” Border Angels believes that no human is “illegal,” and this term is offensive and offers a huge misrepresentation of the organization and their work. We greatly prefer to use terms such as “undocumented immigrant” or just “immigrant.” In addition, to say “most” of the bottles are slashed is not entirely accurate, as the slashing is relatively new...most of the bottles left over the last several months and years have not been tampered with.

Secondly, each Water Drop participant is only asked to bring one gallon of water to drop, not two.

Thirdly, to say that most participants are Hispanic is not only offensive, it’s simply not true. I myself am Caucasian, as are plenty of other participants — especially journalists from abroad, many of whom come from Europe and were present that day. To market this event as primarily Hispanic implies that people of other ethnicities are not welcome or may not fit into the crowd, which is untrue.

Jonathan Yost was not even present for this particular hike, and he is definitely not a “big man” — I think you have him confused with another route leader. Kirsten Zittlau is a lawyer, yes, but she does not give legal advice for immigration matters and does not volunteer with Border Angels as an immigration attorney.

Not only as a regular Border Angels volunteer but also as a professional in the immigration law field I feel it is my duty to educate and set the record straight on these many aspects of the article. There is moderate to severe untruths exhibited here and it is not fair to Border Angels to have such misrepresentation. Please feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any questions.

Again, I do appreciate your participation, but offering misinformation can have long-lasting detrimental effects on Border Angels and the immigrant community at large. Thank you for your time.

  • Emily Rowley
  • Pacific Beach

The Title Is Condescending and Insulting

I feel that the title of your recent cover story “You left water in the desert for illegals?” [August 16] is disrespectful to Border Angels because they allowed the journalist to join them in their work and Border Angels refers to the people they are aiding as “undocumented people,” not “illegals.”

“Illegals” is a dehumanizing term that organizations such as Border Angels very purposefully do not use. Border Angels welcomed a journalist to join them, and the Reader broke their trust by using the word “illegals” in the article title.

I think this is an amazing organization and their story is worth telling, but this title is condescending and insulting to people that work so hard to support undocumented peoples. There is a time and place to highlight the various viewpoints across the spectrum that individuals have about the issue of immigration — this article is not the place to do so.

Border Angels does work to aid people making a difficult and life-threatening migration across the desert. Border Angels aids and thus humanizes a group of people that are consistently dehumanized by people across the nation. By using the term “illegals” the word used to dehumanize, the Reader has broken the trust of Border Angels, and it is my view that a correction be made and an apology issued.

  • Charles Marks
  • College East

It’s Not “Taps,” It’s “Retreat”

In “Camp Pendleton: Hell of a Place to Grow Up” [cover story, August 2], Ian Anderson relates growing up on Camp Pendleton he recalls hearing a bugle call every evening that he described as “Taps.” I think what he really heard is “Retreat,” which is played when the flag is lowered. “Taps” is played at night at lights out or at funerals. No big deal, just a faulty memory.

  • Bob Werner
  • Leucadia

They Had a Cart Full of Meat

The August 2 story [“Mideast woman and child get baby back ribs and ribeye steaks at Walmart,” Golden Dreams] about buying groceries for a woman and her child really struck a chord with me.

I had an identical experience — in San Jose! Probably not the same people but definitely the same method: approached by three young sisters in the parking lot with a request for a few items. Inside the grocery, I went off to find my one item and when we met again near the checkouts they had a cart full of meat, snacks, juices, and soda.

Not being familiar with Jesus’s quote, I said that wasn’t what we had discussed and limited their purchases to about $35. As we parted, I too was gifted with multiple “bless you” comments.

  • Kevin Smith
  • North County

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Thank you for your letter. It’s wonderful that you volunteer your time with the Border Angels. They are great organization. I wanted to correct a few of your corrections.

If you look at the photo from the day I did the water drop you will see nearly everyone is holding not ONE, but TWO separate gallons of water. Most, if not everyone in my hiking group carried two gallons of water into the desert.

Also, I never said that most of the gallons were slashed. I believe on my hike we found two or three slashed gallons. All of which were placed in a plastic trash can carried by a volunteer who picked up trash on the way. I noticed that many of the negative comments on Facebook blasted the Border Angels for trashing the desert. That is far from the truth. I was impressed that in addition to carrying gallon jugs a volunteer also carried a trash bag to clean the desert along our hike. Anyway, I believe there was a quote where Jackie mentions on one trip, 50 out of 53 gallons were slashed. Just to clarify, I am not in charge of the Reader’s social media pages. I don’t write the captions they use when posting articles.

Also, you mentioned I was stereotyping when I said that there were mostly young Hispanic volunteers. When I arrived at the Border Angel’s headquarters that was the case and was not a misrepresentation. Like I described in the article many of the volunteers I spoke with were motivated to attend because they had uncles, brothers, sisters and parents who had entered the US through the desert. It was beautiful and emotional to speak with them during the experience.

As for the mention of Kirsten as a lawyer, she is lawyer. The day I was there she told the group that she volunteers with the Border Angels giving legal advice to use her abilities to help others. I am not certain, but I believe you might be correct about Jonathon Yost. I think I confused him with another individual.

As for the term illegal, the word is used twice in the article. First it is used in reference to a Pew research study, and lastly it is used in quotes. When it is said in quotes, I immediately correct the person who used the term. I understand that individuals are not illegal.

Siobhan Braun

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