No “illegal aliens” in Arizona? (Updated, 11/10/08)

By Jon Feere on November 7, 2008

Illegal-alien and open-borders advocates may succeed in getting the Arizona Supreme Court to ban numerous immigration-related phrases, including “illegal alien” and “open-borders advocates.”

In a significant blow to the First Amendment and the use of legally-correct terminology, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor has advanced the demands of the Arizona Hispanic Bar Association by moving to ban the following language from all of the state’s courtrooms:

Illegal aliens
Resident or non-resident aliens
Illegal immigrants
Illegal immigration
Immigration epidemic
Immigration crisis
Immigrant invasion
Pro-illegal immigration activists
Open borders advocates
Anchor babies
Proponents for amnesty

Many of these terms have a precedent in the law that reaches back to the origins of this country. The first five terms are used repeatedly throughout federal immigration statutes and case law. In place of these words, the Hispanic Bar Association demands the use of legally-enigmatic terms such as “unauthorized workers.” Of course, use of inaccurate and activist-created terms only creates confusion and legal uncertainty.

In fact, judges in a recent California Court of Appeals case involving in-state tuition breaks for illegal aliens took issue with the activist language used by defendants MALDEF and the University of California (Martinez v. Regents of University of California, 166 Cal. App. 4th 1121; Sept. 15, 2008):

Defendants prefer the term ‘undocumented immigrants.’ However, defendants do not cite any authoritative definition of the term and do not support their assertion that the terms ‘undocumented immigrant’ and ‘illegal alien’ are interchangeable. We consider the term ‘illegal alien’ less ambiguous. Thus, under federal law, an ‘alien’ is “any person not a citizen or national of the United States.’ (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(3).) A ‘national of the United States’ means a United States citizen or a noncitizen who owes permanent allegiance to the United States. (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(22).) Under federal law, ‘immigrant’ means every alien except those classified by federal law as nonimmigrant aliens. (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15).) ‘Nonimmigrant aliens’ are, in general, temporary visitors to the United States, such as diplomats and students who have no intention of abandoning their residence in a foreign country. (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(F), (G)… The federal statutes at issue in this appeal refer to ‘alien[s] who [are] not lawfully present in the United States.’ (8 U.S.C. §§ 1621(d), 1623(d).) In place of the cumbersome phrase ‘alien[s] who [are] not lawfully present,’ we shall use the term ‘illegal aliens.’

The language war is nothing new. Open-border, pro-illegal immigration activists have invested way too much time coming up with euphemisms for illegal alien amnesty. These proponents for amnesty believe that they will be successful in tricking the American public into supporting mass legalization if only they can find the right wording.

Despite the public’s continued overwhelming opposition to amnesty, the immigration language police have been successful in one realm: the media. In its letter to Justice McGregor, the Arizona Hispanic Bar noted the work of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. For at least the past decade this journalism group has sent memos to news publications across the country, demanding that they refrain from using the term “illegal alien” and other legally-accurate terminology. Anyone who follows the news knows that many journalists on the immigration beat regularly supplant legally-correct terminology with activist-created language.

As private enterprises, newspapers can publish whatever they so choose. But to suggest that attorneys representing the People and impartial judges should bend to the demands of activist groups at the expense of legal accuracy is entirely unacceptable.

This story was broken by Judicial Watch, and the relevant documents are available online.


Amid outcry, the Arizona media is reporting that no words have been definitively banned from Arizona courts. "That is not true," says Carie Gerchick, communications director for the Arizona Supreme Court. "Those words have not been banned from Arizona courtrooms."

Gerchick explains the memo as follows: "A letter was sent in from an organization, a local legal organization, asking a court to essentially ban the use of those words. Under no circumstances did the Chief Justice McGregor ban any words."

The judge did, however, forward the request to all lower courts. But in a conversation I had with Philip Urry, the Clerk for the Court of Appeals Division 1, he said the following: "I do not interpret this as any type of directive to the Arizona courts."