Daniel M. Kowalski's letter to the Editor referring to a headline in the Feb. 18, 2003 issue of Immigration Daily reading "INS Repatriates 89 Illegal Aliens to Nigeria", brings light to the long-standing semantic debate of what to call the various groups of non-US citizens, particularly those living in the US in violation of the law. We must call them something, and what we call them should clearly reflect exactly what they are.
To me, it is simple. Illegal aliens are people who entered the USA without documentation, or as INS says, without inspection. If we wish to be more politically correct, they may also be called "undocumented aliens", because they entered without documentation. So what's the fuss? Political correctness, domestic engineer rather than maid? come now.
Then, there is the overstay, a person who entered the US on a valid visa, only to allow their authorized stay expire. This class of person is not an illegal, although one might argue they are illegal, because they have illegally (or unlawfully) overstayed their visa but we are talking semantics here, and if you refer to them as an illegal, it clouds the meaning of illegal, and their must be a difference, because horses are not cows, even if they do both have four legs and tails . The import of all this semantic vivisection? Quite simply, most illegals cannot adjust to permanent residence within the US, even if they marry a US citizen (unless they qualify under 245(i) - the big loophole in the law), while, overstays can, in certain instances, make such adjustment. A big difference, and the difference is not just semantic, it's real, and it's the law.
So there, it's easy. The term illegals refers to a specific group of aliens unlawfully present in the US, while overstays apply to another, and never the twain should meet - although arguably, they are both undocumented. But caution. Don't ever refer to either of these two groups as immigrants - they simply have not immigrated - a word that itself has a dear meaning, as any US permanent resident or recent US citizen will tell you. And no, I will not discipline myself, as Mr. Kowalski's letter suggests those of us in the field do, to use any other terms or illogical rehtoric, politically correct, or not - I just call it like I see it, politically correct, or not, and to me a rose by any other name remains a rose, and illegal aliens remain illegal aliens, not immigrants.
Sorry if I am not politically correct, at least I am semantically observant, as well as rudely opinionated.
David D. Murray, Esq.
Newport Beach, CA.
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