The Power of Words for a Dreamer
October 17, 2017
I can’t exactly date when or how I became so intrigued by the spoken language. Not so much in linguistics, but more so in the power of words. How they’re powerful enough to evoke emotion or influence behavior, when using the appropriate ones, of course. Thus a career in communications was a natural path for me; it’s a realm where I’m learning to intricately strategize messages for audiences that can have the power to provoke behavioral shifts, and if strong enough, cultural rifts.
As a lover of language, admirer of vocabulary and – not to mention, as a previously undocumented immigrant, now DACA recipient – the words that have been used to label the community that I’m a part of, have done just that: evoked strong emotion and influenced my behavior.
Initially – and almost by habit – I felt the need to resort back to the shadows. My mother brought my younger sister and me to the U.S. from Mexico before we were even five. As soon as I became cognizant of my status, I learned it was a subject that I was not to speak openly about, and did so with reservation and severe cautiousness for fear of deportation. Now as an aspiring communications professional with the backing and support of so many of my colleagues from FleishmanHillard, I feel compelled to educate and advocate for the nearly 800,000 other DACA recipients who share my fears.
Consider words such as illegal and aliens. They’ve been intended to make the undocumented community feel that they do not belong in the U.S. and that we’re unworthy of being called American. I’m now 23 and in the last 19 years since I’ve been in this country, I’ve pledged allegiance to the American flag, I’ve grown up in the American education system, I’ve learned to speak the language without a trace of a foreign accent and I’ve assimilated into American culture, often blurring the lines between the one I adopted and the one native to me. I’ve graduated from UCLA, I’ve earned my position in a global PR firm and I’ve made sure to pay my taxes. I, and 800,000 others like me, feel and believe that we’re American in every way despite lacking the documentation that says so.
Though we feel as if we’re American, political opponents have tried to undermine our sense of belonging by dehumanizing and criminalizing us using words like illegal and alien. With a learned understanding of the power of the curated words shared via traditional and social media, I’m now empowered by so many of my colleagues to counter the negatively perpetuated narratives about undocumented immigrants. I hope to harness the power of words to portray a humanized image of DACA recipients as your colleagues, neighbors and friends who wish for nothing more than to reside lawfully in the U.S. and peacefully lead their lives in the country they call home.