“Illegal Alien:” Racially Offensive Language or A Lack of Allegiance To The U.S. Constitution?

laura_head_shotTwo weeks ago, the headlines brought to our attention Fox New Contributor, Laura Ingraham’s affront against Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, suggesting the Supreme Court Justice chose her “immigrant family background” over the U.S. Constitution.

The polemic arose from Justice Sotomayor’s talk to a group of Yale Law students, in which she commented on the fact that she was the first Supreme Court Justice to use the term “undocumented immigrants,” saying “[t]o call them illegal aliens seemed and does seem insulting to me.”.

The term “illegal alien” does not condemn an act, but rather the existence of a human being. As Charles Garcia, op-eds writer for CNN, aptly said: “[T]he term illegal alien suggests that individuals, rather than actions, are unlawful.” In fact, such language dehumanizes immigrants and creates animosity towards targeted ethnic groups that further fuels the already controversial issue of immigration in the U.S.

Although Justice Sotomayor may have been the first Justice to openly reject the term “illegal alien,” back in July, 2012, the Supreme Court made a groundbreaking decision regarding the Arizona immigration case when it omitted to use the terms “illegal immigrants” and “illegal aliens.” Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” Moreover, the Court ruled that is was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment. In fact, the removal of an unauthorized immigrant is a civil matter that must be determined by federal officials who have wide discretion to decide whether deportation makes sense.

220px-Sonia_Sotomayor_in_SCOTUS_robe

Justice Sotomayor’s position on the term “illegal alien” does not condone undocumented immigration, but rather supports the Court’s recognition of the importance of using a non-judgmental language that establishes a humanistic approach to the current restructuring of U.S. immigration policy. While the Constitution does not in itself tell us what kind of immigration policy is right and just, it certainly does not encourage the use of language that promotes hatred and divisiveness that journalists, such as Ms. Ingraham, continue to use. After all, it may very well be that Justice Sotomayor’s critics are in fact those who fail to demonstrate true allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

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2 responses to ““Illegal Alien:” Racially Offensive Language or A Lack of Allegiance To The U.S. Constitution?

  1. Don’t use unapproved terms or the Thought Police will come get you under the guise of political correctness. “Illegal Alien” is purely descriptive. Alien: noun — a foreigner, esp. one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living: an illegal alien. Illegal: adjective — contrary to or forbidden by law, esp. criminal law: illegal drugs. So an “illegal alien” is a non-naturalized foreigner present in the country contrary to law.

  2. It’s great to see future attorneys with a knowledge of law as well as respect for the manner in which those laws are used and defined. Very thought provoking and well written piece Nathalie. A demonstration of true allegiance to the U.S. Constitution – Keep up the good work and good luck in your studies!

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