By JR on Monday, July 09, 2012
A bit of fast and loose reasoning below
Last month's Supreme Court decision in the landmark Arizona immigration case was groundbreaking for what it omitted: the words "illegal immigrants" and "illegal aliens," except when quoting other sources. The court's nonjudgmental language established a humanistic approach to our current restructuring of immigration policy.
When you label someone an "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrant" or just plain "illegal," you are effectively saying the individual, as opposed to the actions the person has taken, is unlawful. The terms imply the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal.
In this country, there is still a presumption of innocence that requires a jury to convict someone of a crime. If you don't pay your taxes, are you an illegal? What if you get a speeding ticket? A murder conviction? No. You're still not an illegal. Even alleged terrorists and child molesters aren't labeled illegals.
So nobody can be called an illegal immigrant until a court declares them so? What were they before the court declared them illegal then? Legal?
His reasoning is actually an example of the old logical fallacy of composition, which arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. So it may be true that a particular person should not be called illegal until a court has judged him but that does not imply that there is not a group of similar people which is illegally present -- and who can thus be referred to as a whole as "illegals".
And even if we want to refer to a particular person as an illegal, we can reasonably follow newspaper practice and refer to him as an ALLEGED illegal immigrant.
But the argument is rarely about individuals. It is about a very large group of people who are in America without permission. Denying that such a group exists would be absurd and being in America without permission is illegal -- hence the term illegal as a shorthand reference to that class of persons is perfectly reasonable.
Rather fun pulling that apart.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. doesn't think "illegal immigrant" is a slur either.