“Illegal Aliens” and Why Words Matter When It Comes to Immigration

Evidently, the writers of this year’s Republican platform consulted a dictionary. The platform correctly refers to people who reside in the United States without permission as “illegal aliens.” In previous years, GOP officials erroneously referred to them as “illegal immigrants.”

The distinction is small — but hugely important. Referring to this population as “immigrants” demeans foreigners who went through the legal immigration process. It also normalizes criminal behavior.

Illegal aliens have not immigrated — they’ve crossed a border or overstayed their visas.

Legal immigrants, on the other hand, have undergone a complicated, multi-step process to be granted admission into the United States. They’ve filed petitions, submitted documents, endured interviews, and much more.

Lumping these law-abiding immigrants in with people who skipped the line is a slap in the face to those who played by the rules.

The supposedly politically-correct terms “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented immigrants” also normalize criminal behavior. Someone who breaks into a house isn’t an “illegal visitor” — he’s a burglar. Someone who steals a car isn’t an “undocumented driver.”

Some Americans would respond that illegally residing in the United States is a victimless crime, on par with jaywalking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Illegal aliens compete with American workers, driving down wages. Harvard economist George Borjas concluded that the influx of illegal aliens between 1990 and 2010 caused a 4 percent decline in the wages of native-born Americans without high-school diplomas. Overall, illegal immigration reduces Americans’ wages by as much as $118 billion each year.

American workers don’t need political correctness — they need leaders who enforce the law and remove the illegal aliens who undermine their economic security and give legal immigrants a bad name.


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