Recently in Language Category

I sent the following email yesterday to Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of the New York Times.

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

I write with respect to your piece today addressing Jose Antonio Vargas's recent request to the AP and the New York Times to stop using the term "illegal immigrant."  Thank you for discussing this important issue.  I am an immigration attorney based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  You cited Mr. Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards at The Times, as stating:

[I]n referring in general terms to the issue of people living in the United States without legal papers, we do think the phrases "illegal immigrants" and "illegal immigration" are accurate, factual and as neutral as we can manage under the circumstances. It is, in fact, illegal to enter, live or work in this country without valid documents.

I wanted to respond to this comment with a few points.  First, the terms "illegal immigrant" and "illegal alien" are not defined in the Immigration and Nationality Act and are generally disfavored by immigration judges and the members of the Board of Immigration Appeals, who make decisions about whether someone is to be removed from the U.S. or not.  According to applicable law, the terms are no more accurate than "undocumented" or "unauthorized."  "Alien" is the most accurate legal descriptor of a non-citizen.  I've attached and copied below a blog post I wrote for change.org a few years ago that explains this in more detail, with citations to applicable law (change.org recently removed the blog posts from that time period from its site, so the post is no longer available online.)

Second, the term illegal immigrant is not accurate because it usually assumes a person's immigration status when that status has not yet been determined by a court of law.  It has been documented that the Department of Homeland Security routinely attempts to deport U.S. citizens, and sometimes succeeds.  
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was listed as a "hero" for immigration reform by the pro-migrant political action committee, Immigrants' List.

I greatly value the work that Immigrants' List does, and encourage folks to donate to them. We need more pro-migrant PACs like Immigrants' List, and we need more money for them if we ever hope to have a pro-migrant impact. Of the ten heroes Immigrants' List cites, I agree with their selection of the other nine heroes. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), however, has to be one of the worst pro-migrant politicians in the country. That is to be distinguished, of course, from some of the worst nativists in the country, like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
A new take on the language wars that frequently infect the immigration debate:


(Sombrero tip to Juan at dreamactivist.org)

I don't know if yet another take on the hypocrisy of mostly European migrants telling mostly Latino migrants to keep out will convince any nativists, but I find it funny nonetheless, and learned a little bit of Cherokee in the process.

If you don't want me to ruin the fun, stop reading here, but this also touches on a post I wrote earlier this week about the complexity of comparing one movement to another and about how the people best placed to do so are those who belong to both movements.

Scott Douglas, Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, nailed it on the Colbert Report, last night not only diction but also in tone, as he made his case against Alabama's HB 56, the most harmful and dangerous immigration law in the nation. Sometimes people try to go on Colbert and be funny, but it's hard to outfunny Colbert. It's better to just play it serious and let Colbert be the comedian, and Scott Douglas did that just as he said he would. More important, were his profound words which were almost always applauded by Colbert's audience.
The Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is at it again.  It's flaming the fires of a faux controversy this time involving North Carolina Rep. Deborah Ross (D-38)



From an ALIPAC email (I won't link to ALIPAC):

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