Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Immigration Debate Euphemism

Walter Williams:
Being a relatively land-rich and labor-scarce nation, immigration has always been good for our country. Plus, for most of our history, there was a guarantee that immigrants would come here to work. The alternative was starvation.

With today's welfare state, there's no such guarantee. People can come here, not work and not starve because the welfare state guarantees that they can live off the rest of us.

At the heart of today's immigration problem is its illegality. According to several estimates, there are 11 million people who are in our country illegally, mostly from Mexico. Many people, including my libertarian friends and associates, advance an argument that differs little from saying that people anywhere in the world have a right to live in the United States irrespective of our laws or preferences.

According to that vision, American people do not have a right to set either the number of people who enter our country or the conditions upon which they enter. Some of the arguments and terms used in the immigration debate defy reason. First, there's the refusal to call these people "illegal aliens." The politically preferred term is "undocumented workers," which is nothing less than verbal sleight-of-hand. After all, I, too, am an undocumented worker.
Thomas Sowell
Immigration is yet another issue which we seem unable to discuss rationally -- in part because words have been twisted beyond recognition in political rhetoric.

We can't even call illegal immigrants "illegal immigrants." The politically correct evasion is "undocumented workers."

Do American citizens go around carrying documents with them when they work or apply for work? Most Americans are undocumented workers but they are not illegal immigrants. There is a difference.

The Bush administration is pushing a program to legalize "guest workers." But what is a guest? Someone you have invited. People who force their way into your home without your permission are called gate crashers.
Jay Ambrose:
Some years back, when we talked about foreigners sneaking into our land in contravention of the law and then setting up camp for years and years, we called them illegal aliens -- which, of course, is exactly what they were. . .

But some were unhappy with the word choice. They worried that the phrase was insulting, because, you see, another definition of alien is a "creature from outer space," and besides, the word as an adjective can also denote strangeness.

English, as we all know, is a language full of words with multiple meanings, and except in poetry and jokes, we mostly manage to understand that one meaning of a word does not somehow color another of its meanings. But politics was at work here, not lexicography, and those harping on the issue would not be appeased until most media outlets were calling illegal aliens "illegal immigrants," and later "undocumented workers," and finally -- in a surprising number of cases -- just "immigrants."

Then the word manipulators sprang their trap -- so to speak. When members of Congress proposed laws to regain control of who resides in America, foes acted as if they were betraying something fundamental in America's traditions. According to them, these lawmakers were picking on immigrants -- and aren't we a nation of immigrants? Didn't all of our ancestors or we ourselves come from other lands, and doesn't this fact mean we should embrace all these other immigrants?

1 comment:

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

They are illegal immigrants. I call them like I see them.