Antonio Diaz Chacón’s Heroism Shows Lunacy of Hateful Rhetoric

The man lauded as a hero came out as undocumented. And that's even more reason to applaud his bravery.

By S. Leigh Thompson Aug 25, 2011

Anymore it’s rare to read anything positive about undocumented immigrants in the news. But articles about Antonio Diaz Chacón are an exception.

When Chacón witnessed a 6-year old girl in his neighborhood being abducted he took action. He hopped in his truck and chased the kidnapper’s van for miles until the kidnapper crashed and ran away. Thanks to Chacón the little girl is safe, and now Chacón is being lauded a hero. The mayor of Albuquerque even declared a day in his honor.

But Antonio Diaz Chacón is an undocumented immigrant. Chacón has lived in the U.S. for four years, where he works as a mechanic and lives with his wife and two children. Chacón’s wife, Martha, is a citizen, but Chacón gave up trying for citizenship because the process was too long and too expensive. Chacón risked a great deal by revealing his undocumented status to the news, but believes good will come of it.

"Now that everywhere people are attacking immigrants, he thinks this happened for a reason for people to know that immigrants aren’t just criminals," Martha Diaz translated for her husband to KRQE television in Albuquerque.

Last week President Obama announced that the federal administration would no longer deport undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record. As Mónica Novoa points out, since there has been increased attention on the difference between "good" and "bad" immigrants, and there’s no doubt as to the media’s verdict on Chacón. Story after story paint Chacón as one of the best of the best, not Obama’s "worst of the worst." Even Chacón himself makes certain the distinction between himself and criminals.

It is important to recognize the way in which all immigrants are often categorized as criminals, and the i-word only clouds the debate. How can someone be labeled "illegal" and a hero at the same time? "Hero" denotes a special type of humanity while the i-word dehumanizes. It is also crucial to note the ways in which undocumented immigrants are criminalized by a broken immigration system. And by focusing on the divide between "good" and "bad," attention is diverted from challenging the system that creates "criminals" out of "illegals."

It’s clear that for undocumented immigrants human value must be proven and not earned. And since society relegates all undocumented immigrants as "criminals," proving one’s worth is a difficult task. Chacón managed to save a little girl’s life. Must all immigrants also thwart kidnapping plots to be seen as valuable human beings?

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