In a recent CNN opinion article, Charles Garcia indicates that using the term, “illegal immigrant” is equivalent to a racial slur. His argument begins with the observation that the United States Supreme Court, in their language of the recent landmark Arizona case, refrained from using the term ‘illegal immigrant,’ accept for quoting references.
Garcia goes on to say, “When you label someone an ‘illegal alien’ or ‘illegal immigrant’ or just plain ‘illegal,’ you are effectively saying the individual, as opposed to the actions the person has taken, is unlawful. The terms imply the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal.”
According to the most common dictionaries, the word ‘illegal’ means: “Not allowed by the law.” A more formal definition further denotes a definition as, “not according to or authorized by law,” or “not sanctioned.”
Yes, Mr. Garcia, the term ‘illegal immigrant’ precisely indicates there is the ‘existence of an unauthorized migrant in America,’ which is criminal. Hence, deportation laws and law enforcement agencies whose duties are to enforce those laws.
But, is it reasonable to say the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is a slur?
I don’t think so. And I don’t think so because the term’s intent is not to degrade or belittle a subject because of their race, sex, or other identifying characteristic.
By definition, a slur is “an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo,” or “a shaming or degrading effect.”
Though Mr. Garcia indicates in his article how our nation is one in which one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, I would argue that the mere presence of an ‘illegal immigrant’ in the country is prima facie evidence of the criminal act of illegally crossing the border and making entry into our nation without appropriate application and receiving approval for citizenship.
He further states that, “Migrant workers residing unlawfully in the U.S. are not -- and never have been -- criminals. They are subject to deportation, through a civil administrative procedure that differs from criminal prosecution, and where judges have wide discretion to allow certain foreign nationals to remain here.”
...a slur is “an insulting or disparaging remark or innuendo,” or “a shaming or degrading effect.”
‘Migrant workers’ do commit crimes and have become criminals. The act of crossing the border without authorization is a crime—making them criminals.
Additionally, while the deportation process is a civil administrative procedure, so are red light camera and speed camera violations. Though they are administrated through a civil process due to the sheer volume of cases that would otherwise bring the criminal justice system to a grinding halt, they are crimes in which the vehicle owner is held responsible, regardless if they were the operator of the vehicle.
Identifying someone as an illegal immigrant is no different than identifying a burglar as a burglar, a rapist as a rapist, or a murder as a murder. These are appropriate labels that our society has applied to different person within our society for the purpose of identifying individuals by their actions—not being a derogatory statement towards their sex, race, or other orientation.
I have absolutely no objection to immigrants seeking to become American citizens through the established legal process—a process designed to accommodate a manageable influx of immigrants seeking a new life in this great country. What I do oppose is the criminal conduct of illegal immigrants crossing our borders (including drug runners, cartels and terrorists) without authorization. Unfortunately, we are now seeing the complications of an unprepared administration. I could not fathom instituting a more liberal immigration reform that would further open our borders.
But to say the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is a slur against a myriad of people who illegally cross our borders, is completely outrageous.
When will our society return to the common sense our Founding Fathers knew?
Ken Lang is a former Baltimore area homicide detective and an award-winning author of several true crime books, including Walking Among the Dead, Standing In Death’s Shadow, and Death Comes Uninvited. In 2011, he was named one of 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading by The Author’s Show. He was recently awarded the 2013 DETC Famous Alumni of the Year. 2013 New York Times bestselling author Julia Spencer Fleming says, “Ken Lang is the real deal—a cop with chops!” Ken resides in North East, Maryland with his wife and three children. To learn more about his true crime books and upcoming crime novels please visit his website at www.kenlangstudios.com.