A Santa Barbara newspaper, determined to hold its ground against its critics, has continued to use the term “illegals” when describing people living illegally in the United States, prompting protests and counter-protests in the normally serene city by the ocean.
The initial protests surfaced when the Santa Barbara News-Press headlined a story “Illegals Line Up for Driver’s Licenses” on Jan. 3. In response, someone spray-painted, “The border is illegal, not the people who cross it,” on the front entrance of the paper.
Last Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times, the paper headlined a front-page story: “Driving Legal Opens Door to Illegals’ Past.” News-Press co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger defiantly wrote on the website of the Minuteman Project, “We will not give in to the thugs who are attempting to use political correctness as a tool of censorship and a weapon to shut down this newspaper.”
On Monday, protesters against the usage of the term “illegals” rallied in downtown Santa Barabara, only to face a counterprotesters’ rally organized by the group We the People Rising, which wants stricter enforcement of laws against illegal immigration. The counterprotesters, who traveled from all over Southern California, some carrying signs reading “Freedom Starts With Speech” and “If You Are Illegally in This Country, You Are Breaking the Law,” noted that the term “illegals” was appropriate since the immigrants could obtain driver’s licenses without having to prove citizenship.
A group called People Organizing for the Defense and Equal Rights of Santa Barbara Youth has demanded the paper stop using the term “illegals.” 38% of Santa Barbara’s population is Latino; 44% of Santa Barbara County is Latino.
The paper has stated:
It has been the practice for nearly 10 years at the Santa Barbara News-Press to describe people living in this country illegally as “illegals” regardless of their country of origin. This practice is under fire by some immigration groups who believe that this term is demeaning and does not accurately reflect the status of “undocumented immigrants,” one of several terms other media use to describe people in the Unites States illegally…It is an appropriate term in describing someone as “illegal” if they are in this country illegally.