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Though it might be technically accurate, calling someone who entered the U.S. in an unlawful manner “illegal” has become politically incorrect.
“I can’t speak for other immigrant groups,” activist Jerry Gonzalez told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “but on behalf of the Latino community, many people I speak to on a day-to-day basis think it serves to dehumanize the person, makes them less than human. Similar to the way the n-word was used to dehumanize African-Americans.”
Gonzales, who oversees the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, says many Latinos are offended by the labels.
“It’s easy to dismiss someone when you use a disparaging term such as ‘illegal immigrant’ or ‘illegal alien,'” said Gonzalez.
The Atlanta daily reports the activist plans to lobby state lawmakers to use the term “undocumented workers” when talking about Mexicans and other foreigners in the U.S. illegally.
“It’s a more accurate reflection of people who provide a great deal for the economy,” he said.
Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of “Mexifornia: A State of Becoming,” says the terms are not derogatory.
“[Illegal alien] doesn’t describe a person in a negative, pejorative way. It means they don’t have U.S. citizenship and that they didn’t come to the United States in a lawful manner,” he told the paper.
D.A. King is the founder of the American Resistance Foundation, a group that seeks tougher enforcement of immigration laws. He told the Journal-Constitution the term “undocumented workers” is “a politically correct invention to soften the brutal fact that these people are breaking the law.”
“A good comparison would be to say a bank robber simply made an unauthorized withdrawal,” he said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Centers for Immigration Studies, called comparing the term “illegal immigrants” to the N-word “an outrage.”
“You are either an unlawful alien, or an illegal alien,” the paper quotes him as saying.
The issue of immigration has been highlighted in recent weeks since President Bush proposed his plan to allow the 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens thought to be in the United States to remain in the country if they have a job and apply for a guest-worker card. The immigrants could stay for renewable three-year periods, after which they could apply for permanent legal residence.
A recent ABC News poll finds 52 percent of the nation opposes an amnesty program for illegal immigrants from Mexico, while 57 percent oppose one for illegal immigrants from other countries. Both results are roughly the same as when the administration floated the idea two-and-a-half years ago.
Another poll on the controversy shows at least twice as many Americans “strongly” oppose the proposal as strongly support it.