Congressman objects to word ‘illegal’ in House immigration debate

The Gang of Eight’s proposed immigration reform bill hasn’t yet reached the House, but at least one House member is already concerned about the tenor of future debate. He doesn’t want to hear the word “illegal” used in conjunction with the word “immigrant.”

Rep. Bobby Rush. Photo credit
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., a former Black Panther member, is promoting a petition titled, “Stop using the word ‘illegal’ to describe human beings,” and to that end wants to substitute the word “undocumented” for “illegal,” according to The Hill.

“By standing together against the use of these terms, publicly elected Representatives can avoid unproductive debates and discussions, which are extremely offensive to those who have not been born in the U.S.,” Rush said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The words and labels that America selects to describe and refer to non-citizens, and to those not born in the U.S. are supremely important. Your support of this movement will promote a way forward on merits and produce a comprehensive and sensible immigration reform legislative package.”

Other lawmakers have rejected the term “illegal immigrants” as well as organizations such as La Raza. Most recently, the Associated Press stylebook, long considered the journalist’s bible, has substituted “undocumented” in place of “illegal.”

The AP’s position is that “illegal” should be used to describe “an action, not a person” according to its stylebook, but goes on to note however, that “Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.”

The AP made its stylebook change out of a desire to be precise. The Rush proposal is based on political correctness.

“Illegal immigrant” is merely a shorthand way of describing an undocumented immigrant “living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.” But obviously that won’t satisfy Rush either, because although it’s both accurate and honest, it still contains that aura of political incorrectness.

So for the congressman I offer this suggestion: legally challenged immigrants. Will that work?

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