A recurring dispute within our national death-struggle for immigration sanity concerns terminology. In particular, the spokesholes for the open-borders Left pretend to have vapors when they hear the term "illegal alien." This topic has been addressed before at VDARE.com. For example, I had blog entries here and here.
Recently San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette wrote about this language tussle:
[W]e can do without referring to human beings as ”illegals.” Even in the shorthand, adjectives are best not used as nouns. The term ”illegal aliens” is even worse since it intends to dehumanize a whole group of people, perhaps to make it easier for the rest of us to mistreat them.
I’ve been writing about immigration for more than 15 years, and I have often defended those who lack legal status. Yet I almost never use the term ”undocumented immigrant.” When I do, it’s usually on second reference.
For me, the preferred term is ”illegal immigrant.” And, frankly, I think the whole debate amounts to a silly waste of time and energy.
(It really ought to be ”illegal’, December 30, 2009)
Navarrette is surely wrong about this debate being inconsequential. Euphemistic language (e.g. "undocumented immigrant" or, even worse, "undocumented worker") is a tool the open-borders brigades use to obfuscate what's at stake. But Navarrette isn't a prime offender in this arena.
(And sometimes he even says things that are recognizably sensible, e.g.:
Illegal immigration is not something that was done to Americans while they were minding their own business. It’s something that Americans did to themselves over the last few decades by raising children who see the worst and dirtiest jobs as beneath them, and then hiring hardworking illegal immigrants who don’t have the luxury of doing the same.
That's the next-to-last paragraph in Navarrette's column of December 20, 2009, Immigration debate no one is ready for, that's otherwise a pastiche of lame and ahistorical "arguments.")
But what's most interesting to me is that Navarrette dislikes the label "illegal aliens" even more than he dislikes "illegals," although the former is both accurate and found within the U.S. Code. So I emailed him a brief note several days after his column appeared:
What is your problem with the word "alien," as in "illegal alien"? It simply means "non-citizen." In, e.g., France, I (and, presumably, you) would be an alien.
The word goes back at least as far as the early days of the republic — recall the Alien and Sedition Acts. You'll find more than 50 appearances of it in the U.S. Code.
And to top all that, in Stinky Luis's amnesty bill, HR4321, you'll find "alien" or "aliens" more than 450 times! I kid you not.
No, I didn't slavishly count to 450. I copied the bill text from the GPO's PDF version and pasted it into a Word document. Then I did a "find&replace all" on "alien." When Word finishes, it gives the count.
No answer to date. That's not surprising, but maybe Navarrette also took umbrage at my appellation for Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), the behind-the-tortilla-curtain sponsor of H.R. 4321, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act [CIR-ASAP] of 2009 [1.2-MB PDF], introduced on December 15, 2009.
(The bill's nominal sponsor is Congressman Solomon Ortiz [D-TX]. I have it on good authority that Stinky Luis [pronounced "loo eece," with emphasis on the final syllable] had acceded to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's insistence that H.R. 4321's introduction be delayed into 2010, only to infuriate his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Their workaround was to make Ortiz the figurehead.)
Actually, the five-letter string "alien" appears a full 650 times in the 645-page text of H.R. 4321, encapsulated in three forms: "alien," "aliens," and "alienage," a fact you can easily verify using Word, as I described in my note to Navarrette.
Bottom line: Despite the la raza crowd's strident denunciation of the term "alien," their Holy Grail, amnesty-for-all bill employs the word, on average, a bit oftener than once per page!