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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

GOP Candidates Use of Term "Illegals" Will Hurt Them in the Long Run

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Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast has a column out talking about how GOP primary candidates - particulalry Mitt Romeny - regularly refer to unlawfully present immigrants as "illegals." Beinart addresses those who say that the term is a legitimate way to refer to people who disobey the law, but he points out that no one in the GOP or Fox News refers to the CEOs of companies who who hire the workers as "illegals" as well. Instead, Beinart posits, and I agree, that the term is intended to be a euphamism to signal antipathy to Latinos.

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  1. Jack's Avatar
    ("illegal alien," which implies that the people cooking our food and making our beds arrived here by spaceship.)

    Hey, Peter. Look up "alien" in the dictionary. Should we change the word "alien" the U.S. Code? To what? It's just a word! An inoffensive word at that. It's hard to take someone seriously after they play this card.

    "dehumanize America's most vulnerable people via adjective"

    So using "illegal" or "unlawful" as an adjective, e.g., "illegal alien" is dehumanizing too? Peter, did you ever consider that it can be helpful to distinguish between legal and illegal, lawful and unlawful? People like you abhor distinguishing when it comes to immigration so should we just drop the "L" in LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident) since it might remind people that some people reside unlawfully? How can we even talk about the issue if people immediately bring the conversation to a halt with a huffy "No one is illegal"? Do you not realize such word games quickly become absurd? Smart-*** tone doesn't help either.

    ("Illegal" is the latest in a long line of euphemisms that politicians use to signal their antipathy to a reviled racial or ethnic group, in this case, Latinos.)

    Uh, where is there any reference to ethnicity? I get the offense of using "illegal" as a noun (I've never done that) but they never stop at that. It's not in a politician's interest to "signal their [supposed] antipathy" to any ethnic group. People who use "illegal" as a noun might just mean short for "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrant". The evidence of this is that even immigration law doves sometimes use the term. So maybe insensitivity or not clued into PC but it's a big leap to presumed demonizing.

    Offense at any reference to unlawfulness is unreasonable: It IS illegal. Obviously the "Ban The I-word" petitioners think unlawful presence is perfectly OK but they can't change the fact something is against the law. Do they really think they can just fool people into forgetting that something is against the law? Judging from article comments, pretending this way can look ridiculous and offend people's sense of rule-of-law.

  2. John Lamb's Avatar
    Greg is right. The labeling of immigrants in the context of immigration law violations is very, very different than the labeling of anyone else in the context of any other violation of any other law or rule.
  3. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    Jack, of course, no one is illegal. If you commit a minor civil violation, do you become "illegal"? No. Why should they? If anything, it is their presence in this country may not have been authorized [yet]. They are still humans with the same unalienable rights as you.
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