From 'Wet Bottoms' to 'Children of Illegal Immigrants'

By David North on October 3, 2011

"You might say I was a 'wet bottom'," he laughed.

My friend, whom I will call Juan, was articulate, brilliant, and a U.S. citizen. He had been born in Mexico and had risen to be the ranking Hispanic officer of a major American labor union. When I met him, some 40 years ago, we each had (separate) grants from the Ford Foundation on migration matters.

It was a private conversation, and I had asked him how he had first come to the U.S.

We both knew that he was playing on the then fading – and now quite derogatory – term "wetback" for illegal alien. He had arrived as an infant, probably in diapers (hence the "bottom"). His parents subsequently secured legal status, and so he did, too.

That conversation popped into my mind recently when I saw yet another of those New York Times references to the granting of in-state tuition rates to "the children of illegal immigrants," a policy, if not a term, that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas supports.

Yes, they may be children of illegal immigrants, and some of them may also be left-handed or red-headed, but none of those variables is relevant to policy. What is important is that the individuals in question are themselves illegal aliens, having obtained that status, perhaps unwittingly, while children – like my long-ago friend Juan.

The Times' persistent use of this incorrect term is simply another indication of how the open borders supporters have subtly compromised the English language. To say that we are being unkind to the "children of illegal immigrants" suggests we are imposing a multi-generational bill of attainder on the innocent.

That is not the case. What we want is pretty minimal. We are not talking about an enforcement action. Nobody gets deported. Nobody even gets kicked out of college. All that's at issue here is to not make tax-supported financial grants to people who are here in violation of the law. Such grants will only encourage more illegal behavior in the future.

Even the bumbling governor of Texas, certainly no wordsmith, calls those with these tuition breaks illegal immigrants. If Rick Perry can get the terminology right, maybe the Times can too.