“Illegal Immigrant” – A Damaging Term

The New York Times editorial is right on about the inappropriate and deleterious use of the word “illegal” to describe foreigners in the US who do not have proper immigration status.  The editorial states:

“Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far. It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its target diminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class. People are often surprised to learn that illegal immigrants have rights. Really? Constitutional rights? But aren’t they illegal? Of course they have rights: they have the presumption of innocence and the civil liberties that the Constitution wisely bestows on all people, not just citizens.

But at least “undocumented”and an even better word, “unauthorized”contain the possibility of reparation and atonement, and allow for a sensible reaction proportional to the offense. The paralysis in Congress and the country over fixing our immigration laws stems from our inability to get our heads around the wrenching change involved in making an illegal person legal. Think of doing that with a crime, like cocaine dealing or arson. Unthinkable!”

We must stop thinking of immigrants unlawfully in the US as dangerous, undesirable criminals.  Rather, we should view them as desperate, hardworking and brave, some willing to risk their lives to come here.  Who are we to judge people who escape countries with high poverty rates and little chance of a decent quality of life?  Where is our compassion for those who have the misfortune of not being born in a nation with relative security?  Let the Statue of Liberty once again stand for our true principles.