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Editor's Corner: If 'Unauthorized' is Good Enough for the Supreme Court...

July 08, 2012 (1 min read)

Charles Garcia says the phrase "illegal immigrant" is a slur.  Ruben Navarrette disagrees.  The Supreme Court and I take a different tack altogether.  In Arizona et al. v. United States, the majority opinion consistently uses the term "unauthorized" to modify the words "alien," "worker," "employee" and "employment."  Only when quoting other sources - or older Supreme Court decisions - does the Court use the I-Word.  This is consistent with my suggestion, building on the work of many others, that "unauthorized" as a modifier is less pejorative and more accurate...not to mention consistent with the language used in federal statutes.  

I also part ways with Navarrette on one other point: for the reasons I discuss in my post, I don't find the word "alien" to be offensive.  

And both Navarrette and Garcia need correction on one point: while merely being in the United States without a visa, or overstaying one's visa, is not a crime, crossing into the U.S. without permission is, indeed, a federal misdemeanor crime, and sometimes a felony, depending on the circumstances.  

In the end, fighting over labels is a distraction from the hard work of crafting a comprehensive solution that could moot the language dispute.

- Daniel M. Kowalski, July 7, 2012.