Unauthorized it is
What Should We Call Illegal Immigrants?
Jonah Goldberg pushes back against the AP's decision to drop "illegal immigrants" from its stylebook:
It’s absolutely true that it is unfair to summarize a person’s life by his status as an illegal immigrant. Illegal immigrants can be fathers, mothers, artists, comedians, scientists, etc. But in a discussion of illegal immigration, it’s hardly preposterous to describe someone as an illegal immigrant.
Activists and others in favor of banning “illegal immigrant” say the term tarnishes all immigrants. As Sergio Martinez, a 25-year-old resident of Detroit and a noncitizen, told the Michigan news site MLive, “I definitely felt like it was very derogatory and created a stigma for immigrants.”
Well, maybe not for immigrants so much as for illegal immigrants, which is sort of the point, right?
As I mentioned in a lengthy Twitter dialogue yesterday, I have a major issue with "undocumented," which suggests all 12 million(ish) people here without authorization - whether that's on an expired visa or by illegally crossing the border - simply lack the proper paperwork. In many cases, they are actively using false paperwork, such as a fake Social Security number, to gain employment. That's far from "undocumented." That's illegal, and it's a reason we need a program like a National ID card or E-Verify to ensure those seeking work in the United States are legal residents.
But not everyone, as the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Josiah Neeley pointed out to me, is here illegally. Staying on an expired visa is a civil, not a criminal, violation, so illegal immigrant is problematic when applied as a blanket term.
In light of these issues, I'm going to switch to "unauthorized," which the Washington Monthly's Ryan Cooper suggested to me yesterday on Twitter (H/T Alexios). It's more precise than "illegal immigrant" and it lacks the stigma Goldberg defends in his National Review column.
I have nothing personal against unathorized immigrants. Most of them merely wish to provide a better life for their families and a shot in a country that honors and respects the entrepreneurial spirit. That's an admirable trait, and a positive aspect of relying on immigration for population growth is it creates a spirit of self-selection for risk takers and hard workers.
But we aren't a nation with an open border. As long as we have immigration laws, our elite must pay them more than a token courtesy (I'm looking at you, employers who heavily use illegal laborers so you can drive down wages, mistreat other human beings, and skirt taxes and regulation).
So expect to hear more about why we shouldn't have a guest worker program, why we should demand assimilation from those who wish to become Americans, and why we shouldn't eagerly pave the way for the next generation of unauthorized immigrants.
So "unauthorized" it is. Just don't expect a softer term to come with an open acceptance of an amnesty that ignores the wishes of the great American working class. It won't be coming from this space.