A “news article” from the Washington Post:
‘Language as a weapon’: In Trump era, immigration debate grows more heated over what words to useThose are old, straight-forward terms for the realities they are describing.
By David Nakamura January 21 at 9:14 AM
… Though Trump’s use of a vulgarity in a recent immigration meeting at the White House drew widespread condemnation, more mundane terms have been weaponized by immigration hawks, and to a lesser degree advocacy groups, in pursuit of political advantage.
On the right, Trump and his allies have warned of the dangers of “chain migration,” railed against “amnesty” for lawbreakers and urged a shift toward a “merit-based” system.
Their choice of words suggests that immigrants are taking advantage of the United States and are a drain on society.Chain migration has been a common term in books since the mid-1960s, reaching a peak of usage by the late 1990s:
On the left, advocates have defended a tradition of “family reunification” and cast undocumented immigrants who arrived as children as “dreamers” and “kids” in need of special care — even though some are in their mid-30s. Their rhetoric paints immigrants as the fabric of the American experience and as strivers seeking a chance at success.
… “Who controls the parameters around language really has a lot of power in the debate,” said Roberto Gonzales, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who specializes in immigration. “How do you frame an issue in a way that sways public opinion?”
Although disagreements over immigration terminology predate Trump’s presidency, Gonzales said, the president’s willingness to use extreme rhetoric in the name of undermining political correctness has exacerbated the problem and raised the stakes. Gonzales pointed to Trump’s campaign against “chain migration” in the wake of a terrorist attack in New York in the fall in which the suspect, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, is charged with striking and killing eight people while driving a truck on a bike path.
Senator Durbin told President Trump that “chain migration” reminds African Americans that their ancestors were brought here in chains, which sounds like an idea for an article pitched to Salon that got turned down and ended up in the Huffington Post.
Senator Schumer then announced that he wouldn’t negotiate immigration policy with Senator Tom Cotton in the room because “Tom Cotton” sounds like an alternate universe version of “Jim Crow.”
Well, actually, Schumer didn’t.
… The advocates use the term “family reunification” to describe the process of U.S. citizens petitioning for family members in limited categories — spouses, children, parents and siblings — to come here, a process that can take as long as 20 years. …
But some newspapers and cable television stations have parroted Trump’s use of “chain migration,” often with limited context.
“It’s a real problem,” Gonzales said. “It’s become so distorted. If you use a term in an incorrect or incendiary way enough times, people start using it that way.”
Jose Antonio Vargas, chief executive of Define American, a media advocacy group that focuses on immigration coverage, said conservatives have deliberately “created this entire linguistic parallel reality that is framed by the language they use.”The terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” are much older and better established than politically correct Newspeak euphemisms “undocumented immigrant” or “undocumented worker:”
Vargas pointed to outlets such as Breitbart News, which supports Trump and — until this month — was overseen by his former White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Breitbart published recent stories with headlines such as “Illegal Aliens Escalate Amnesty Demands” and “Anchor Baby Population in U.S. Exceeds One Year of American Births.”
Define American has run a campaign, “Words Matter,” that asks news organizations to commit to dropping what Vargas calls “dehumanizing” phrases, such as “illegal immigrant.” Although some major outlets, including the Associated Press, have complied, Vargas said progress has been slow. (The Washington Post’s style guide permits use of the phrase but notes that some find it offensive.)
“The right has been so good at using language as a weapon,” said Vargas, a former Post reporter who came out publicly in a 2011 New York Times article as an unauthorized immigrant from the Philippines. “Now we have gotten to the point where even legal immigration is a dirty word for people. That’s how successful they’ve been.”