Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Is 'illegal' an 'uncomfortable truth' when used to describe immigrants?

CNN guest opinion essay yesterday titled "Why 'illegal immigrant' is a slur," written by Latino marketing guru Charles Garcia, generated thousands of comments and some high-profile rebuttals. Today CNN featured a counterpoint, an essay from syndicated comlumnist (and my former colleague) Ruben Navarrette Jr. titled "'Illegal immigrant' is the uncomfortable truth."

And as most things do that are written about the debate over "illegal" as used to describe immigrants in the U.S. without permission, the latter has already generated 2,000-plus comments. The debate over the term is long-running one, but it was revived last year when the Associated Press opted to continue using "illegal immigrant" in its new stylebook. Meanwhile, immigrant advocates, some professional journalists" organizations and others opt for "undocumented," and the term "unauthorized," often used in research and academia, has also gained favor.

Which term do you use and why? Feel free to post below. Here is Navarrette's take:

Undocumented immigrant? Really? That's politically correct, but it's also absurd. Most of these people have plenty of documents. A woman who makes a living cleaning homes in my neighborhood once explained to me that she had a drawer full of fake green cards and IDs saying she was -- pick one -- a native-born U.S. citizen, legal resident or exchange student.

Many illegal immigrants have Matricula ID cards issued by Mexican consulates, foreign passports, drivers licenses in some states and phony Social Security cards where all nine digits are "0's."

This isn't about documents. It has been my experience that many of those who have trouble with the phrase "illegal immigrant" are really troubled by something deeper -- the fact that, at the end of the day, by supporting a pathway to earned legal status, they're defending a group of people who engaged in unlawful activity. For some folks, this is messy business. So they try to sanitize it by changing the language.

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