An A to Z Guide to Being Undocumented

Term used by the federal government and legal system to refer to all immigrants, legal and otherwise, in the U.S. Also used by bigots (in combination with “illegal”) to try to seem clever. Silly bigots!


Man-made lines that divide families, lead to unnecessary deaths and are usually ugly as fuck. Fuck borders.

Civil Disobedience
Tactic used by those without arms or money since time immemorial to raise desmadre. From sit-ins to rallies to taking over migra stations, a hallmark of undocumented immigrants to organize against deportation and detentions and make the lives of vendido politician a living hell.

Shorthand for undocumented youth taken from the federal DREAM Act, which gave some limited amnesty, provided they attended college. However, it was so limited there's now a campaign to “Drop the D word” and find a term more inclusive. Ah, progressives . . .

Educating undocumented folks costs way less money than deporting them, and the more educated they get, the more taxes they pay. Think about it!


More than 16 million Americans live in households with at least one undocumented family member–a parent, sibling or a child. Also, a favored target of the Obama administration (see “Obama, President”).

Green Card
Shorthand for permanent resident status. Subject of songs, parody videos and the black market. Fun fact: Some green cards are not green. Who knew?

What many Know Nothings who oppose immigrants and immigration reform lack. Also, kickass band that covered Led Zepellin's “Immigrant Song,” an ode to undocumented Vikings.

A dehumanizing, antiquated and inaccurate term for migrants without papers. Drop the I word.

Ju Hong
Undocumented immigrant from South Korea who publicly called out Obama on his deportation record last year. Made bigots scratch their heads because he's not Mexican (see “Yellow Peril”).


Tenet of Eastern religions that essentially says you reap what you sow. The growing multiculturalism of this country is karma for America's anti-immigrant policies.

The reason our parents migrated to the U.S.: for a better life. We stay and protest because we love them. Also, what nativists seem to lack (see “Heart”).

Most popular path to citizenship for undocumented folks. And now, finding a citizen to marry, regardless of gender, is easier than before, thanks to the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Yay!

Grassroots campaign asking Obama to not deport a single more person. Has become the mantra of the immigrant justice movement. Hella catchy.

Obama, President
Deporter in Chief, with more than 2 million deportations under his belt — by far the most of any presidential administration in history. He can change this legacy with a stroke of his pen and bring amnesty to all.


Prison-Industrial Complex
Private and government prisons make billions of dollars annually by holding immigrants before they get deported. In Santa Ana, activists have been pressuring the all-Latino City Council to repeal the city jail's agreement with ICE; they've refused. Pinche vendidos . . .

Many undocumented movement leaders are queer and use queer tactics such as coming out of the shadows to advance immigrant justice. They call themselves “undocuqueer” — as awesome a mestizaje as ever.

Reform, Immigration
What both parties say they want but will never accomplish because catering to Know Nothings from both parties seems to matter more than lives . . . or something like that. Are we being too harsh?

Secure Communities
Federal government program ostensibly set up to deport only violent criminals. Instead, it has rounded up undocumented folks charged with misdemeanors or less by the tens of thousands. Only thing secured is contracts for jails (see “Prison-Industrial Complex”).


California law that stops city, county and state officials from turning over immigrants caught in routine traffic stops to ICE for deportation. As California goes, so goes the nation — just look at how the GOP has become extinct here and, soon, everywhere.


Prefix derived from “undocumented.” Activists have modified it to create all sorts of terms, from undocubus to undoculove to undocunews. “Undocuhate”? Never.

Visa Overstay
Don't believe the hype: Almost half of all undocumented folks in the U.S. came here legally, with a visa, and overstayed. The rest bought “visas” from their tío's compa in SanTana.

White Supremacy
Underlying cause of America's xenophobia since the days Benjamin Franklin railed about Germans. Not limited to white people — check out the policies of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez for further reference.

Humans with super-powers. Hiding your powers from society at large? The undocumented life.

Yellow Peril
After Latinos, Asian Americans make up the largest population of undocumented folks. Their presence at rallies make bigots scratch their heads as their model-minority myth explodes . . . and they bring back this old canard anew. Silly bigots!

Influential Mexican revolutionary movement that has taught undocumented activists how neo-liberal globalization policies such as NAFTA forced their parents and themselves out of their homelands, as well as how to fight back. On that note: Reconquista, anyone?

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *