Semantics, Political Correctness, and Bizarre Priorities Obscure Honesty in the Immigration Dialogue

By Dan Cadman on August 14, 2015

The Center for immigration Studies has published a series of blogs by Jerry Kammer on some of the recent writings by Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker magazine. They are an interesting microcosm of the way many liberal journalists and authors of otherwise bright intellect abandon their capacity for neutrality or dispassionate analysis when the subject of immigration arises. This lack of capacity for critical examination is especially disturbing for an attorney and "senior legal analyst" (at CNN) like Toobin.

In Kammer's latest blog, he notes that Toobin has forsworn use of the phrase "illegal immigrant" because, in his anecdotal experience, it offends those affected. No doubt that's true; but those with whom he regularly speaks would almost certainly include more elitists, celebrities, and glitterati than real, actual, hard-working immigrants of any type, legal or illegal — unless perhaps he has a nanny or housekeeper with no papers. I doubt that otherwise he has much occasion to rub elbows with illegal aliens in any substantive way (except when gathering heartwarming stories of sacrifice for his articles).

As to the use of descriptive phrases: I'm sure that prisoners serving time in a penitentiary would prefer to avoid words such as "felon" or "convict", to describe them, even if they are accurate. I'm equally sure that I will take some hits for what people will allege is a vicarious comparison between felons and illegal aliens, but if that's what they think, they are missing my point, which is simply that it's human nature for individuals to shun descriptors they are uncomfortable with, even if they are accurate.

Let me say emphatically, however, that there is a radical difference between using phrases that objectively describe individuals responsible for their condition (aliens who choose to live in the United States illegally, criminals who choose to break the law, etc.); and those who did not cause, and have no control over, their circumstances. There is no excuse for that kind of cruelty.

It is the first circumstance that I take exception to. It's the kind of political correctness that deprives words of their capacity for truth or honesty by masking everything behind carefully constructed euphemisms. A perfect example is what has just happened in California, where the legislature has enacted, and the governor signed into law, a statute banning official use of the word "alien" from California labor laws. Really.

Such rich irony! The governor and the state lawmakers who have enacted this supreme piece of stupidity hold their positions only because their state is one of 50 in our nation, which consists of a union of states — that, after all, is what the United States of America is. We define ourselves as a nation by insisting that we are, and are to be perceived of, as separate from other nations geographically and demographically. That is the essence of sovereignty. And part of being separate means that we define the people of this nation as citizens, and the citizens of all other countries as — dare I say it? — aliens.

Seems like California has so many problems: runaway forest fires, endless drought, a disastrous public debt that threatens to overwhelm its capacity to make payments, a crumbling infrastructure, you name it. I'm so glad that the legislative and executive branches of the nation's third largest state have their priorities straight.