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Dear Editor:

Almost a month ago, on January 23rd, in your Editor's Comments you wrote regarding letters to you: "Though writing from different viewpoints the authors seem to be able to agree that people who are working in the US illegally doing jobs most Americans do not want to do and supporting their families instead of looking for help from the government are not necessarily bad people. Yet they are in violation of the law. Current estimates of the number of people in the US illegally and whom the INS is unwilling or unable to find and remove range about 9 million. When that many people, who are not bad people, are in violation of the law, which was not meant to be a bad law, a new solution is needed."

There is no disagreement between this consensus and the Chicago Study reported in your comments of yesterday (February 21, 2002). I am pleased that Rep. Schakowsky commented on the Chicago Study in Congress (Immigration News, same date). It would seem that now is the time to search for a solution to the immigration problem but many of the letters you receive continue to be filled with speculations or to be concerned with a debate on how to label the people who are in our country illegally. These letters revolve mainly around semantics, interpretations and "legalese."

In the history of our language over the years many words have developed different connotations. For example, a child born out of wedlock is a bastard. Bastard is still a good English word. Most of us, however cringe at using this word and regard it as a vulgarism. Few if any of us would label the child of an unwed mother as a bastard. Most would refrain from even labeling such offspring an illegitimate child or a natural baby. We would just call it a baby.

The same can be said for the word, criminal. Yes, in the strictest interpretation, one who violates a criminal law is a criminal. When I hear the word, criminal, I envision someone who has committed murder or has robbed a bank or has done something else of a grave nature. Undocumented immigrants are not criminals in the sense that I picture the word. To me they are not aliens either. "Aliens" to my mind makes me think of a little green creature from outer space. When a non-visiting foreigner crosses our borders, he/she has immigrated (i.e. is an immigrant). If he/she does so without legal papers, he/she is undocumented. So, to me, he/she is an undocumented immigrant. That is the term I use. The Chicago Study employs the same terminology. They are not called criminals in that study. Others may designate such people who are working in our country without papers as they wish. I find it much kinder and considerate to refer to them as undocumented immigrants and I write from personal associations with them.

The important thing is not how we label these people but to find a new solution for the problem that exists of so many people ("who are not bad people") being here in violation of a law ("which was not meant to be a bad law"). The present law is a law that does not work.

Richard E. Baer, D.V.M.