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Semantics

Just to stir the pot in the peanut gallery:

Does anyone else find the use of the term “undocumented” to describe people who are in the US illegally to be more than a little disingenuous, misleading, and politically correct?

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35 comments to Semantics

  • Rather a lot of people are of that opinion. (Myself included.)

    Even if you feel people ought to be allowed to waltz across borders willy nilly, you can’t deny that, as it stands, it is a crime in the US.

  • Absolutely. I first heard the term used by a segment of activists that denies immigration laws are, well, legal. It’s never used to refer to people who’ve lost their immigration documents. In writing about immigration policy issues I use the term ‘illegal’ which now sounds harsh. ‘Undocumented’ was relatively new to the culture wars when I did a volunteer stint at a legal aid office during college (at Berkeley.) The PC contingent of lawyers conceded that ‘undocumented’ wasn’t a meaningful term in law, but insisted on that term when presumptively illegal immigrant clients were in the office.

  • Brian Dale

    Yes. It’s also a crime to enter or to work without authorization in almost ALL countries. I still use the older term: “illegal aliens.”

    Brian Dale, United States

  • Rob

    The term “undocumented” is purely an emotional ploy by the open-borders crowd. Just say the words to yourself: undocumented, illegal. Undocumented is decidedly a less harsh word to use, therefore, the emotion-driven leftists, who wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feeeeeeelings—not even a person who has broken their country’s laws—want to generate sympathy for the workers (AKA their constituency).

  • “Undocumented” sounds like they just need to fill out a few forms or some-such. “Illegal” makes them sound almost like criminals or something! We can’t have that now, can we?

  • I use terms a little older than “illegal aliens.” I usually call them “infiltrators” or “invaders”.

  • Jake

    I do not anyone who uses the term “undocumented workers” other than the media.

    Illegal aliens is the term used and occasionally the word “criminals.”

  • Michael Farris

    We (more correctly, y’all) could always try to revive “wetback”.

  • damaged justice

    Or, all you commies who steal money without having crossed a border to do it could get out of America and go live in Russia or China. Then we’d have more room for the peaceful, honest people who want to come here not to steal, but to avail themselves of the boundless opportunities in FREEDOM.

  • Yes.

    Illegal alien is a correct term. !@#!# pee cee types.

  • Verity

    damaged justice – Oh! You mean there’s no FREEDOM in Mexico?

  • Jacob

    As a libertarian I would distinguish between a person who broke a state-made law (crossing a frontier without documents) and a person who broke natural law – i.e. stole, robbed or assaulted some other person.

    The second is a criminal. The first isn’t. The second should be put away to jail – the first – maximum – deported back to his country. The immigrant does not hurt anybody, to the contrary, he works hard and renders valuable services.

    “Illegal alien is a correct term.” Thechnically yes. But “criminal” is definitely not correct. “Undocumented allien” is also correct. Nothing wrong with it.

  • The term I prefer for these people is ‘Magnificent Champions of Liberty’ and the term I prefer for those who would try to document them is ‘statist scum’.

  • Ah yes, the brooding omnipresence of “natural law” puts in an appearance.

    Is trespassing a violation of natural law? How are we to determine? If not, then I suppose someone who trespasses on your property is not a criminal, but an “undocumented occupant,” or perhaps even a “magnificent champion of liberty.”

    Is fraud a violation of natural law? Its not assault or robbery, so I suppose someone who misrepresents who they are in order to, say, induce you to invest your money in a venture where they will make a great deal and you will lose your investment is merely an “undocumented investment advisor.” No violation of the natural law here, just a magnificent champion of liberty making free with your funds.

    If trespassing and fraud are violations of natural law, then pray tell how one can be an illegal alien without committing trespass and fraud.

  • What do trespass and fraud have to do with failing to respect state imposed boundaries and the impertinent agents of the state who enforce them? Libertarian freedom concerns respect for private and honestly aquired property and allied rights.

    It is a pity that RC Dean is so confused and wilfully ignorant that he does not know or cannot see the difference and chooses to side with statist filth and mock those who merely want to live and work in peace and freedom.

  • GCooper

    Paul Coulam writes:

    “It is a pity that RC Dean is so confused and wilfully ignorant that he does not know or cannot see the difference and chooses to side with statist filth and mock those who merely want to live and work in peace and freedom.”

    Thank heavens! Dave Spart is alive and well.

  • Is a bank robbery an ‘undocumented withdrawal’?

  • John Steele

    Natural Laws: Gravity, Thermodynamics, 1 > 0, etc.
    State-created Laws: Murder, Robbery, Fraud, crossing borders without permission, etc.

    Not stealing from someone or not killing them are hardly a “natural laws.” Absent an effective government nothing happens to you if you rob someone — look at large parts of the third world.

    If Jacob actually believes this, and Jacob is a Libertarian, and Libertarians actually believe what Jacob says they believe then I’m glad I’m not a Libertarian. What a load ofr rubbish.

  • John Steele

    Natural Laws: Gravity, Thermodynamics, 1 > 0, etc.
    State-created Laws: Murder, Robbery, Fraud, crossing borders without permission, etc.

    Not stealing from someone or not killing them are hardly a “natural laws.” Absent an effective government nothing happens to you if you rob someone — look at large parts of the third world.

    If Jacob actually believes this, and Jacob is a Libertarian, and Libertarians actually believe what Jacob says they believe then I’m glad I’m not a Libertarian. What a load ofr rubbish.

  • John Steele

    Natural Laws: Gravity, Thermodynamics, 1 > 0, etc.
    State-created Laws: Murder, Robbery, Fraud, crossing borders without permission, etc.

    Not stealing from someone or not killing them are hardly a “natural laws.” Absent an effective government nothing happens to you if you rob someone — look at large parts of the third world.

    If Jacob actually believes this, and Jacob is a Libertarian, and Libertarians actually believe what Jacob says they believe then I’m glad I’m not a Libertarian. What a load ofr rubbish.

  • Bolie Williams IV

    While technically, I have documents that prove I’m a citizen, I’d rather not be defined by that. The scary thing to me about “undocumented” is that the opposite would be “documented”, implying that legal residents must have their documentation.

    Since illegal aliens can go to public schools, pay taxes, etc… it’s hardly accurate to call them “undocumented.” In some cases, they are documented.

  • It seems that John Steele’s knowledge of Jurisprudence is as feeble as GCooper’s attempts at humour.

  • Maybe the phrase also betrays a belief that “docmented” describes the natural state of citizenship. Your papers, please…

  • Or, more precisely, that “documentedness” should be a lot thicker and deeper than necessary. There’s always going to be a few acticvities (esp. voting) requiring some sort of official ID – but not to the Orwellian extremes that certain countries employ.

    Maybe “undocumented” betrays another belief: that the proper government response is to document them and not to get rid of them.

    The root of our immigration is the fact that Mexico is sorely lacking economic freedom. Even France is in better shape. Vicente Fox won’t do anything about illegal immigration – it is a safety valve against pressure for political reform. People will tend to do what comes easiest, and fleeing to America is easier than protesting in public squares.

    The legacy of Iberian authoritarianism lives on.

  • Jacob

    R.C. Dean:
    “Is trespassing a violation of natural law?”

    Yes. Trespassing private property. Is an undocumented allien tresspasing ? On whose property ?

    The matter of Natural Law is too vast and difficult to go into here, but surely you would agree that not all state-made laws are ok and welcome to our libertarian state of mind.
    Some laws are good and others bad, and we have our philosophical reasons for beleiving that. We do not beleive in the Divine right of King or Congress to make any law, and by merely making it – bestow on it moral authority.

  • Look, much as I would like to believe in the brooding omnipresence of natural law, I am a positivist at heart. Probably comes from being a lawyer, but trust me, I have given this a lot of thought.

    I agree that some state-made laws are good and some are bad, indeed that some are so bad that they should be disregarded.

    However, I am not yet ready, unlike some, to cast the notion of citizenship and the laws which define it into the dustbin of history.

  • Joe Klehe

    One of the participants of the Minuteman Project monitoring the Arizona/Mexico border this month responded to being called a vigilante by saying “I’m just an undocumented Border Patrol agent!”

  • neil

    Does anyone else find the use of the term “illegal” to describe people who have committed the victimless crime of not possessing the proper papers to be more than a little disingenuous, misleading and dehumanizing?

  • Jim

    “As a libertarian I would distinguish between a person who broke a state-made law (crossing a frontier without documents) and a person who broke natural law – i.e. stole, robbed or assaulted some other person.”

    I am not rying to show off my illiteracy, but please, what is unnatural about robbing or assaulting someone? It’s called predation and anture would come to a halt without it. What real basis in nature does “Natural Law” have?

  • Jim

    “As a libertarian I would distinguish between a person who broke a state-made law (crossing a frontier without documents) and a person who broke natural law – i.e. stole, robbed or assaulted some other person.”

    I am not rying to show off my illiteracy, but please, what is unnatural about robbing or assaulting someone? It’s called predation and nature would come to a halt without it. What real basis in nature does “Natural Law” have?

  • I am not rying (sic) to show off my illiteracy

    I’m sure you’re not but I do wish that some of the critics of natural law here would try to spend some time looking at the many volumes published on natural law theory before launching into these facile attacks. Natural Law is an extremely important body of jurisprudence, there are indeed sound criticisms of it but the glib drivel spouted on this thread does not come close to a refutation.

    Anyway, one does not need to take recourse to natural law theory to see that the arguments advanced here in favour of state immigration restrictions are fatuous in the extreme and their soi disant libertarian advocates (especially RC Dean, who should know better) should be ashamed of themsleves for putting them forwards.

  • “the victimless crime of not possessing the proper papers” is a little disingenuous, and I would have thought the mockery above of the term “undocumented” would have made that clear.

    After all, if I steal your car, am I guilty only of not possessing the proper papers (i.e., the title to your car)? I am certainly guilty of that, but the lack of paperwork is merely evidence of another crime.

    Now, we can debate whether or not there should be such a thing as citizenship in the nation-state, or whether citizenship is decreed by the brooding omnipresence of natural law (our Founders, big fans of natural law and citizenship, would have been shocked to learn otherwise), but please, let us not pretend that the law has not been broken by illegal aliens.

    After all, an illegal alien who has the proper paperwork but obtained that paper by fraud is still illegal. Its not the paper, in other words, its what the paper represents that matters.

    I would have thought a bunch of natural law fans would grasp that immediately.

  • Paul Coulam – perhaps you could point us to the fatuous arguments made in favor of immigration restrictions that I have made?

    As far as I know (and I should know), I have done nothing on this post but argue semantics. Every single thing I have posted could be argued by someone who believes in open borders.

  • I was referring to the obscurantist guff about trespass and fraud of course. You are right, strictly speaking this is not an arugment in favour of immigration restrictons, however, as a contribution to debate it is fatuous in the extreme. Nevertheless why are you seeking refuge in ambiguity? It is disingenuous to claim that your points could all equally well be made by an advocate of open borders and I fail to see the merit in such lawyerly weaselling.

  • Jack Olson

    “Undocumented immigrant” is of course a PC euphemism for illegal alien. Newspapers and television news readers use the term to placate advocates of illegal immigration. The reason they don’t know how much this undermines their credibility with the rest of their audience is that the people who demand they use the euphemism are organized groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and La Raza (The Race), while the people who object to the euphemism as the lie it really is, are not politically organized. So the newsies and the nets knuckle under to the organized and lose credibility steadily.