AP TO REPORTERS: NO ONE IS 'ILLEGAL' When the Applied Research Center (ARC), a racial justice think tank, started its Drop the I-Word campaign in 2010 to persuade people and the press to stop using the words "illegal immigrant," eye-rolling critics said the term was correct, or it was just semantics, or it mattered less than policy, or, simply, that it couldn't be changed. But it mattered hugely to many immigrants, reporters and friends. The stakes were high: winning meant we'd loosen up the immigration policy debate to include questions of family, survival, race and national identity—the things Americans pretend to ignore when immigration is framed only as a matter of law and order.
On April 2, the campaign celebrated a major victory when the Associated Press announced that it would no longer condone the use of the term. It was the result of years of hard work by many. At ARC, we took up a threefold strategy: one, to raise the voices of people who live under the shadow of those words; two, to generate more debate in journalism circles; and three, to ensure that news outlets hear from as many people (and as far across the political spectrum) as possible.
These tactics solidified enough of a base that when reporter Jose Antonio Vargas, who revealed his undocumented status in June 2011, challenged fellow journalists to stop using the word "illegal" last year, he landed on a playing field where the goalie was already overwhelmed by the size of our team.
Now is the time to build more momentum. Americans should ask their local newspapers to align their policies with the AP and press larger outlets like The New York Times to change their style guides, too. Dropping the I-word will enable a better immigration policy debate, and it will ease the integration of immigrants into our cities and towns.RINKU SEN
WINNING IMAGE: Congratulations to Nation illustrator Steve Brodner, whose work has been selected for American Illustration's annual book, the country's most prestigious collection of illustrations. Brodner's winning image, depicting Bill Clinton dancing with a donkey in a blue dress, appeared on Brodner's live art blog on TheNation.com covering the Democratic convention. It was drawn by Brodner in pencil and colored in Photoshop by Lisa Reist. "We worked hard at something totally strange and new," Brodner explains. Kudos! THE EDITORS
HAGEL'S BAD BUDGET RHETORIC: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's speech at the National Defense University on April 3 left a lot to be desired. Hagel was supposed to discuss "the challenges posed by a changing strategic landscape and new budget constraints," as well as "the opportunities that exist to fundamentally reshape the defense enterprise to better reflect 21st century realities."
Neither Robert Gates nor Leon Panetta, Hagel's predecessors, would have seen budget constraints as an "opportunity." Both warned incessantly that budget cuts at the Pentagon would be a catastrophe. On that score at least, Hagel's speech was less alarmist and more realist.
But when addressing the budget, Hagel went off the tracks. Today, he said, the Pentagon has "significantly less resources than the department has had in the past." That's not true. Yes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are ending, but stripped of the costs of those wars, defense spending has hardly fallen—at least not yet. Slashing this bloated budget ought to be Hagel's—and Obama's—job during the next four years.
Hagel echoed Gates's claim that "the post-9/11 'gusher' of defense spending was coming to an end." Would that it were. The modest $487 billion reduction that Gates and Panetta set in motion will hardly bite into the Pentagon's $6 trillion–plus over the next decade. And the sequester, if it happens at all over the long term, is small potatoes.
Hagel's most valuable, if obvious, insight was the need to "confront the principal drivers of growth in the department's base budget—namely acquisitions, personnel costs and overhead." Indeed, the big bucks are in über-expensive weapons systems, salaries (especially for the top-heavy officer corps, including way too many generals) and overhead (including the costly, gold-plated Pentagon healthcare program).
Hagel concluded by saying that "America does not have the luxury of retrenchment," warning: "If we refuse to lead, something, someone will fill the vacuum." But who? Russia? China? Not likely. And what "vacuum"? It isn't the job of the United States to go stumbling into every regional conflict, humanitarian crisis, failed state and would-be terrorist nest that arises. Whatever those things are, they are not a "vacuum" to be filled.ROBERT DREYFUSS
GEO GROUP GETS SMACKED DOWN: In a victory for social justice, human decency, and those who stand against the private prison industry and its agenda, GEO Group will no longer hold naming rights to the football stadium at Florida Atlantic University. The multibillion-dollar private prison corporation is aiming to expand its Florida operations dramatically when immigration reform passes and the state's more than 700,000 undocumented workers are vulnerable to detention. GEO Group's plan to spend $6 million to rename the home of the FAU Owls was an effort to normalize its name: GEO Group, just another corporation you can trust, the Xerox of private prisons.
But FAU students weren't having it. They started a movement called Stop Owlcatraz, whose statement of purpose was powerful in its moral clarity: "FAU is putting the families of their Hispanic students at risk of being detained in facilities that bear the same name as the stadium of their Alma Mater." All of a sudden, the good PR wasn't so good.
The students are the heroes of this story. For more, visit TheNation.com. DAVE ZIRIN