From the I-Word to the I-Deed

Joseph Nevins

 

On April 2, the Associated Press announced that it would no longer sanction the term “illegal immigrant” or use “illegal” to describe persons living in a country without authorization. Eight days later USA Today, the largest circulation newspaper in the United States, announced a similar policy.

These changes are the result of a three-year, national campaign spearheaded by the Applied Research Center and its online news site, Colorlines.com, as part of a collection of organizations and activists that includes the National Hispanic Media Coalition and Jose Antonio Vargas, journalist and founder of Define American. The effort, called “Drop the I-Word,” is now seeking to build on its victories by pressuring The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times to follow suit.1749Credit: Colorlines.com

Less directly—but still significantly—the changes are also the outgrowth of the inspiring efforts of immigrant activists and organizers, many of them undocumented, to challenge their “illegal” status. From DREAMers conducting civil disobedience and daring the federal government to arrest and deport them, to the passengers on the UndocuBus riding this past summer across the country, “undocumented and unafraid” immigrants have opened up invaluable space for policy debate and new initiatives.

Drop the I-Word is predicated on the assumption that words matter, that the terms we employ are more than mere words, that the language we use can harm individuals. To this extent, the campaign’s recent victories are important and the ongoing efforts necessary.  

Yet, given that language is situated in a material reality, what these victories and efforts mean in terms of a highly repressive apparatus of immigration control and exclusion that systematically criminalizes migrants is less clear. It is an apparatus that has seen massive growth of late—the number of Border Patrol agents, for example, has increased from about 4,000 to 22,000 over the last two decades. It is one that will likely become more formidable and draconian via the “comprehensive immigration reform” now on the table.1750

As the name of the campaign suggests, critics of the use of the “i-word” perceive it as racist. “'Illegals’ is a racially charged slur used to dehumanize and discriminate against immigrants and people of color regardless of migratory status,” explains the ColorLines website.

A study published in 2006 by the psychologists Tiane Lee and Susan Fiske shows that the generic image of immigrants in the contemporary United States is one of untrustworthiness and incompetence. But it is unauthorized immigrants as a whole, they find, who are the most despised, occupying a position, contends the sociologist Douglas Massey in discussing their article, “usually reserved only for the most detested and socially stigmatized groups.” No doubt, the labeling of such individuals as “illegal”—given the power of the law and the state to shape worldviews—has strengthened their stigmatization.

Still, the question is, what impact will greater linguistic sensitivity have on the rapidly growing apparatus of immigration control and boundary policing—one that cost almost $18 billion and exiled via deportation a record-breaking 410,000 people last fiscal year? The seemingly constant drumbeat against “illegals” over the last few decades has certainly provided potent ideological fuel for this apparatus. Yet, what has played a huge role in giving the term its ideological traction is the growing public acceptance over the last several decades of a system for policing the country’s boundaries and immigrants—and public demand for such (a demand that state has played a huge role in helping to manufacture). At the same time, it is the material and ideological weight of that system that has given life to the “i-word.”

For these reasons and more, the links between changes in language and actual practice are complicated, and often messy. Indeed, if the past is any indication, shifts in the language related to immigration can sometimes unfold in a policy context that seem antithetical to those shifts. 1751Credit: Aljazeera.com

In the late 1970s, for example, the Carter administration forbade the official use of the term “illegal alien.” Instead, it employed terms such as “undocumented worker” or “undocumented alien” to characterize unauthorized migrants. Yet, it was also during the Carter administration that a significant increase in federal resources dedicated to boundary and immigration control commenced, helping to lay the basis for a larger build-up that would accelerate significantly in the succeeding administrations.

The Reagan administration quickly reversed the Carter policy and reverted to the language of “illegal alien” upon coming to power, while also markedly increasing the size and growth rate of the policing components of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). At the same time, it was Reagan who championed and signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986, making some three million unauthorized migrants eligible for IRCA for permanent residence and eventual citizenship.

Such outcomes raise the issue of how we ensure that words matter in transformative and systematic ways. So, if “no human being is illegal”—as the “Drop the I-Word” campaign asserts—does this mean simply that we shouldn’t call people “illegal”? Or does it mean, or should it mean, that we shouldn’t treat people as such, that we should not see the act of migrating, or residing or working in a country in which one was not born as wrong, illegal, or even criminal—and work to change the country’s political-economic institutions to reflect this? In other words, does the change in language reflect or seek to bring about a corresponding shift in material reality?

In terms of the Associated Press and the USA Today, the answer is clearly no. As the AP’s executive editor explained in announcing the policy shift, “’illegal’ should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”1752Credit: DHS

So, for the likes of the Associated Press, the problem is merely one of language inappropriately applied to particular individuals or groups of people. What is not up for consideration is the system that effectively makes them illegal and treats them accordingly—for example, by imprisoning and deporting them, dividing and harming countless families in the process, and contributing each year to the untimely deaths of hundreds of migrants who perish while trying to circumvent the ever-thickening regime of boundary policing.

Where Drop the I-Word stands on this issue—notwithstanding its invoking of humane treatment of migrants, an end to racial profiling, human rights protections, and a “need to look at how to fix our laws so that they also match our values”—needs to be clearer. The victories thus far in the corporate media are significant, but the challenge for the campaign—and for all of us who support it—is to realize far greater promise by ensuring that it be strongly linked to efforts to achieve systemic change.

1755Border Patrol, Imperial Valley, California. Credit: Don Bartletti, LA Times.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed that “words are deeds,” thus highlighting how words embody our ways of life. To the extent that words are meaningful, they flow from, and help produce our worldviews and everyday practices, and the social structures in which we are embedded.  At the same time, to the extent that one wants to challenge language that contributes to a devaluing and marginalization of human beings simply on account of their ancestry, geographic origin, or on what side of an international divide they were born, the effort to identify appropriate terms is part of a larger struggle. It is necessarily a struggle to create a very different, more just world.

In this regard, the fight against the “i-word” must be tightly tied to one to eliminate the “i-deed”—in the form of the walls and fences that litter the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the pervasive immigration policing in the country’s interior, and the growing body of laws that criminalize migrants and make their lives increasingly untenable, for instance. Otherwise, the word, albeit a highly undesirable one, will be largely that—a word. Meanwhile, the repressive system of regulation and exclusion will be sure to stay in place, effectively producing “illegals” and other forms of disposable people, with all the attendant forms of violence, regardless of what we decide the call them.

 


 

Joseph Nevins teaches geography at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Among his books are Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights/Open Media, 2008) and Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals” and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2010). For more from the Border Wars blog, visit nacla.org/blog/border-wars. Now you can follow it on Twitter @NACLABorderWars.

Comments

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

This article mixes arguments about the i-word with arguments about whether migrants should be given legal status. I will comment only on the i-word, not on the much bigger immigration issue.
 
How about using "unlawfully present" in place of "illegal" in our terminology?
 
For both those migrants with papers and those without, the real issue is this: some people care about violations (of laws or other government rules) that enabled the migrants we're talking about to reside in the country. And those people often don't care whether the migrant is blameless because someone else (human traffickers, parents of DREAMers, etc) caused the violations.
 
Some people claim that the term "illegal" is demeaning or pejorative. Even if that could be proven, we could ask: why do those migrants deserve to be spared from that kind of term, given those violations I just mentioned? The migrants usually are willing beneficiaries of those violations, and often will commit more violations in order to stay in the USA.
 
Activists are demanding that people stop referring to the migrants as "illegal". Then they should suggest something much more accurate, something that captures the fact that those violations occurred (because the violations are what people care about and are the defining characteristic of the migrants we are talking about). Why should people settle for a misleading term like "undocumented" just to avoid the alleged possibility of stigmatization?
 
We could say "unauthorized" instead of "illegal". But then people could just say, "No human being is unauthorized." So I guess that would solve nothing.
 
A specific individual should not be described as "illegal" while his/her immigration status is unproven. But the term is often used to refer to a group of people known to exist in the USA (or whichever destination country is being discussed), and the appropriateness of the label for them is debatable.
 
Saying "no human being is illegal" is a misleading slogan. I believe that few or no participants in the recent immigration debate ever seriously believed that people can be inherently illegal. I doubt that adults considering immigration issues believe the term "illegal immigrant" means that. The term is understood to have a different meaning.
 
Instead, some people claim that a person's presence in a particular place, or crossing a particular boundary, at a particular time can be the result of some kind of violation. Other people believe that such a presence is itself some kind of violation. I believe these are the two widely intended meanings of "illegal immigrant". Unfortunately, it's not always clear which of those two is meant, but both involve illegality so maybe that doesn't matter.
 
It's true that we don't describe people in other kinds of situations as illegal. For example, we don't use "illegal drivers" to refer to those who get speeding tickets, or "illegal employers" to refer to those who knowingly hire employees who lack a legal right to work. But why are these migrants entitled to equality of terminology? The English language has other quirky terminology that we don't worry about, because we know the intended meaning. We know the approximate intended meaning of this term "illegal". Must this term have a legalistic degree of precision? Do we really need to get rid of it?
 
It's true that "illegal immigrant" is not thoroughly accurate terminology. But why is "undocumented" any better? For some of the migrants we are talking about, there do exist various documents related to their citizenship or residency.

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