Inclusive Language Series: Undocumented

What does the term “undocumented” mean? Immigrants Rising simply defines the term “undocumented” as all immigrants who reside in the United States without legal status. “Undocumented” is an overarching term that may include the following individuals: Entered without Inspection (EWI), entered with legal status but overstayed, have or previously had Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are currently in the process of legalizing, vulnerable immigrants. More information about these individual statuses can be found here.

In the United States court system and in politics, individuals who are undocumented are often called Illegal Aliens or Illegal Immigrants. Both terms are dehumanizing to individuals, and this is why the term “undocumented” is often used instead or considered more inclusive. Undocumented individuals can come from a variety of places. If you find yourself associating a certain racial community with being undocumented, please challenge your perception to avoid stereotyping.

There are many reasons why a person may be undocumented, so it is important not to assume that the experiences of all undocumented people are the same. Some undocumented folks may have fled their country due to insecurity and violence, while others may have been here their entire life. Others often do not know they are undocumented until later, when they need to apply for certain things like financial aid and in some states like Wisconsin, a driver’s license. Some may ask why individuals who are undocumented don’t go through the “regular channels” to receive legal documentation but the reality is, there are no “regular channels” for immigrants who are undocumented because the pathway to citizenship does not look the same for all who are undocumented.

Resources and More Information:

Resources for Undocumented Students at UW-Madison: Identity at Work – SuccessWorks – UW–Madison (

Documentaries that highlight Undocumented experiences: Immigrants-Rising_Movies-Highlighting-Undocumented-Experience.pdf (

Upcoming Holidays & Observances

  • December 1624: Las Posadas a nineday celebration in Mexico commemorating the trials Mary and Joseph endured during their journey to Bethlehem.
  • December 1826: Hanukkah a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for eight days and nights. Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Israelites over the GreekSyria ruler, Antiochus.