Immigration and the “Name Game”

Published on October 16th, 2012

We are all familiar with the question William Shakespeare posed centuries ago when he asked, “What's in a name?”

While the tactic of “name calling” is certainly wrong, the use of accurate terminology is at the basis of reason and honesty.

On October 8, 2012 the Huffington Post ran a story about how the Spanish language news organizations are “upping the ante” where terminology concerning immigration was concerned in an article that was entitled, 'Illegal Immigrant' Debate: Univision Takes On The New York Times.

The issue was that the New York Times, a newspaper that has hardly been identified as taking a hard line against illegal immigration, continues to use the term “illegal immigrant” rather than the more obscure term “undocumented.” The article made it appear that the issue of illegal immigration is about race — linking demands for name in terminology to the Latino community and Spanish language media. However, the immigration laws of the United States make no distinction about people by race, religion or ethnicity and only make the distinction of whether or not and individual is a citizen of the United States.

That the majority of illegal aliens who are present in the United States are from Latin America is a result of geography — the fact that the U.S/Mexican border is the only place on the planet where the Third World collides with the First World. Aliens from the Eastern Hemisphere are separated from the United States by vast oceans and for them travel to the United States is more difficult than it is for citizens of Mexico who simply need to head north and run the border. However, there are millions of illegal aliens from countries across the globe who are present in the United States. Many of these illegal aliens violated the terms of their admission into the United States while others managed to make their way to Mexico or Canada and then ran the border.

It is remarkable that those who oppose the enforcement of America's immigration laws and vilify anyone who would use the term “Alien” are themselves, quick to engage in name calling and brand anyone who wants those laws enforced as bigots, racists, xenophobes or nativists!

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the all-inclusive body of law that pertains to the entry and continued presence of aliens in the United States. It also sets forth the grounds for excluding or for deporting aliens who violate the immigration laws.

The INA begins by establishing definitions. This is commonly done in all areas of law. For example, if an individual is to be charged with a violation law such as firearms law or narcotics law, the first issue is to define what a firearm or narcotic substance is.

For the purposes of immigration it is important to establish terms that provide clarity. The term “Alien” is defined in Section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which contains a list of essential terms, as simply being “Any person not a citizen or national of the United States.”

The term “alien” appears frequently throughout the Immigration and Nationality Act because those very laws deal with foreign nationals- (aliens)! The only time that the immigration laws are of relevance or concern to United States citizens is if and when a citizen of the United States hires an alien, marries and alien or is engaged to marry an alien or otherwise interacts with an alien.

There is absolutely nothing in that definition that insults or denigrates anyone. In point of fact, when Americans enter into other countries, they become “aliens” in those countries.

The Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted to achieve two primary goals; to protect American lives and protect the jobs of American workers. In conjunction with these goals the INA mandates that any individual who desires to enter the United States must do so at a designated port of entry so that the person can be interviewed by an appropriate government official (a Customs and Border Protection Inspector). This requirement is to be found in Title 8, United States Code, Section 1225.

Similarly, the INA provides a list of categories of aliens who may not be admitted into the United States. That list can be found in Title 8, United States Code, Section 1182 or in the companion section of the INA, Section 212. This section of law includes aliens who suffer dangerous communicable diseases, suffer mental illness and are prone to violence, aliens who are convicted felons, members of violent gangs, are engaged in human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, human rights violators, war criminals, spies and terrorists. Aliens who would seek to work in violation of law are also deemed excludible.

For those opponents of border security, immigration law enforcement and accuracy in the use of language to further their agenda, I would remind them that the Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term Illegal thus:

"…not according to or authorized by law: unlawful, illicit; also: not sanctioned by official rules (as of a game)"

It is clearly a violation of law to evade the inspections process designed to protect American lives and jobs. Generally violations of laws are properly referred to as being illegal.

The first step in problem solving is to accurately identify the problem. That process has to begin with honesty — honesty to be found in the use of clear, accurate and honest language.

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