Don't mince words

If an immigrant is here illegally, he's an 'illegal immigrant'

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There’s a proper place for euphemisms. That’s why a person says, “I have to go to the bathroom” without sharing in detail what will occur in the bathroom.

Journalism is much less accommodating of euphemisms. As a journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas should know that.

Instead, Vargas is fighting for watering down the language with vague descriptions. Vargas, who emigrated from the Philippines when he was 12, is calling upon two of journalism’s heavy hitters – The New York Times and the Associated Press – to stop using the term “illegal immigrant” to describe a person who is in the United States – well, illegally.

That includes Vargas. When his mother sent him to America to live with his grandparents, he lacked the legal paperwork for citizenship. Until publicly admitting his illegal status last year, he had been skating by on false documents. He doesn’t appear eager to pursue legal U.S. citizenship.

“Ironically, describing an immigrant as ‘illegal’ is legally inaccurate,” Vargas said recently in a column for Time magazine. “Being in a country without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one.”

He doesn’t mention what civil offenses and criminal offenses have in common – they’re both against the law. And you don’t need a thesaurus to pick a synonym for “against the law” – it’s “illegal.”

Vargas also believes that the term “illegal immigrant” “dehumanizes and marginalizes the people it seeks to describe.” He prefers the term “undocumented immigrant.”

So to what absurd extreme would he like to verbally obscure law-breaking? Car thieves, perhaps? Imagine a police officer telling this to a victim: “Sorry, ma’am, this isn’t a car theft. It’s just an undocumented borrowing.”

To the credit of AP and the Times, for the most part they’re not budging.

AP nuanced its description well before Vargas’ most recent agitation. As reported previously by Mallary Jean Tenore, an associate editor with the nonprofit journalism school The Poynter Institute:

“Prior to the update, the (AP) Stylebook said ‘illegal immigrant’ should be used ‘to describe someone who has entered the country illegally.’ Now, it says the term should also be used to describe anyone who “resides in a country in criminal or civil violation of immigration law. Additionally, it says that ‘living in the country without legal permission’ is an acceptable variation of ‘illegal immigrant.’ ”

Phil Corbett, the Times’ associate managing editor for standards, explained his paper’s stance to Poynter:

“(I)n referring in general terms to the issue of people living in the United States without legal papers, we do think the phrases ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘illegal immigration’ are accurate, factual and as neutral as we can manage under the circumstances,” Corbett said. “It is, in fact, illegal to enter, live or work in this country without valid documents. Some people worry that we are labeling immigrants as ‘criminals’ – but we’re not. ‘Illegal’ is not a synonym for ‘criminal.’ (One can even park ‘illegally,’ though it’s not a criminal offense.)

“Proposed alternatives like ‘undocumented’ seem really to be euphemisms – as though this were just a bureaucratic mix-up that can easily be remedied,” Corbett said.

It’s rare indeed when we come down on the same side as the Times on an issue.

Comments (13) Add comment
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Riverman1
87476
Points
Riverman1 09/27/12 - 04:50 am
10
1
At Least Column Is English

I’m just happy Vargas wrote the column in English. It’s a wonder he’s not demanding the NY Times print a Spanish and Tagalog version of the same column. It’s also a wonder the NY Times doesn’t do that on their own. You know they want to.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 09/27/12 - 08:22 am
1
0
Just be an
Unpublished

"undocumented" alien in iran, mexico, china, russia, pakistan, libya, egypt, tunisia, morocco and afghanistan. It will get you a piece in "Time", an obituary! America's bleeding hearts are the reason for the assassinations of more than 3,000 humans by radical islamists.

seenitB4
91139
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seenitB4 09/27/12 - 08:28 am
4
2
Strange situation we are in.

Look at a huge ant hill & watch the ants scatter.....try to divide the busy working ants from the loafer ants....can't do it can you...
That is what has happened here in the USA...we waited too long to care...it has gotten out of hand...
We reward our loafers & let the working ants take over......now the worker ants want a piece of the pie....next thing you know they will want to vote--WAIT--you mean they do want to vote NOW!!!
Geez...maybe that is why some have taken notice...little late though....
What next----will they run for congress & change our way of life---HEY yes to that....the next president could be one of those worker ants.....
Hello Mexicano-USA.....
Reminds me of a Toby Keith song...a little too late.

harley_52
23978
Points
harley_52 09/27/12 - 09:20 am
5
3
Nothing More Than...

....more Political Correctness, which has pretty much destroyed the English language in the U.S. and hinders our ability to communicate. Some examples...

"Black" isn't black anymore, now it's "African American" even if the person in question is from Haiti, or can't name a single relative who ever lived in Africa.

"Gay" isn't happy anymore, now it's "homosexual."

"Pride" doesn't describe feeling a sense of accomplishment any more, it now describes homosexuals flaunting their homosexuality before normal people.

You don't call someone who can't see "blind" any more, now it's "visually impaired."

Short people are "vertically challenged."

Someone with a birth defect is now "special needs."

Liberals now want to be called "progressives."

Garbage men are now "sanitation engineers."

Where will it all end?

I could probably think of a few more, but you get my drift. Besides, my memory isn't what it used to be now that I'm old....er...I mean a "senior citizen."

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 09/27/12 - 09:59 am
2
3
HA! Oh Harley... black is

HA! Oh Harley... black is still black. You can call a person from Haiti African American if you wanted too, but you would be wrong.

You're right though- it's a shame language changes, especially for political correctness sake. Remember the days when we could called black people negros and have no shame about it. It's frowned upon now, which clearly hinders our communication and destroys the English language.

harley_52
23978
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harley_52 09/27/12 - 10:46 am
4
1
Nothing Wrong With....

...the word "negro." It is the Spanish word "black." There is no racial slur, or insult, attached to the word "black," either in English, or Spanish (except that brought about by liberalism). It became a forbidden word when Political Correctness became the law of the land. It's another perfect example of where Political Correctness has taken us.

shrimp for breakfast
5476
Points
shrimp for breakfast 09/27/12 - 12:55 pm
4
0
Good ones Harley

Midgets are now Little people.
I wonder what really tall people are called? Lakers? Heat? Hawks?
My memory ain't what it used to be. Am I Cerebrally Challenged?
I don't think anymore. I just have random cerebral activity.

harley_52
23978
Points
harley_52 09/27/12 - 02:48 pm
2
1
Is It A Racial Slur...

....if a Mexican refers to a black American as being a "negro" person?

I mean, to a liberal, is it?

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 09/27/12 - 07:36 pm
3
1
Whatever isn't a racial slur

... and can't be stretched to be one falls under the category of "code language." No need to explain; it's liberalthink: if someone feels insulted by the existence of straight white people, how guilty should we feel and how deeply should we apologize?

KSL
135487
Points
KSL 09/27/12 - 07:47 pm
2
1
Remember when tall women were

Remember when tall women were called "Amazons?" Not to their faces.

My husband went out with one of them when I was up north in college avoiding liberal indoctrination. She was 6'2 but not as tall as he is. He told me she bragged to him that her chest measurement was 42 inches. His retort was yeah, and it's all in your back. I met her later. And he was right.

CobaltGeorge
165718
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/27/12 - 08:15 pm
2
1
harley_52

I'am chalking all your examples down on my Black Board.....correction....Green Board.

Bantana
2071
Points
Bantana 09/27/12 - 08:22 pm
2
2
Now that's some red meat

Now that's some red meat there! No dog whistle needed. It's all out in the open tonight.
.
Who let the dogs out?
.
The ACES did. :-)))

CobaltGeorge
165718
Points
CobaltGeorge 09/27/12 - 08:40 pm
3
1
Yes, and

Ain't it nice of them...

Bantana
2071
Points
Bantana 09/27/12 - 10:53 pm
0
2
No surprise

I wouldn't expect to see it anyother way.

No need for code when you have safe harbor.

wayne2410
1239
Points
wayne2410 09/28/12 - 07:50 pm
1
0
I don't see a problem with
Unpublished

I don't see a problem with the word negro either but I will gladly not call someone that if I know it bothers them just for courtesy sake. It is true PC has run amock, it is hard to not offend someone when there are so many going around looking for something to be offended by.

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