New York Times Thinks the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’ is Racist

Is the New York Times lobbying to eliminate the term "illegal immigrant" because, in its view, this designation is both politically incorrect and racist?

Such appears to be the case judging from an editorial written by Lawrence Downes and published Sunday.

Downes began (emphasis added throughout, h/t Hot Air):

I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegal parker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched or broken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. The offenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments - penalties and fines - and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me the chance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader, and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whose crimes exceeded mine.

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It's the crime you can't make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.

Downes seems to misunderstand that in America, like most democracies, people who are successfully prosecuted for committing crimes are penalized, and then indeed rejoin society if their sentence so dictates. Such was even the case for both individuals he specifically named, Stewart and Steinbrenner.

Regardless of his obvious lack of knowledge concerning U.S. legal and penal practices, Downes continued:

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word "illegal." It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.


Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far. It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its target diminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class. People are often surprised to learn that illegal immigrants have rights. Really? Constitutional rights? But aren't they illegal? Of course they have rights: they have the presumption of innocence and the civil liberties that the Constitution wisely bestows on all people, not just citizens.

Extraordinary nonsense, wouldn't you agree? After all, any alien presently in this country illegally can indeed rectify the situation. He or she is only a "lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class" if he or she continues to violate the law or the law is changed.

What is Downes not understanding about this simple concept?

Yet, that is not the only source of his confusion, for Downes appears to believe that it is actually the word "illegal" which is governing the public's view of the problem:

Meanwhile, out on the edges of the debate - edges that are coming closer to the mainstream every day - bigots pour all their loathing of Spanish-speaking people into the word. Rant about "illegals" - call them congenital criminals, lepers, thieves, unclean - and people will nod and applaud. They will send money to your Web site and heed your calls to deluge lawmakers with phone calls and faxes. Your TV ratings will go way up.

This is not only ugly, it is counterproductive, paralyzing any effort toward immigration reform. Comprehensive legislation in Congress and sensible policies at the state and local level have all been stymied and will be forever, as long as anything positive can be branded as "amnesty for illegals."

So, the fact that these folks are called "illegals" is why both Republican and Democrat controlled Congresses haven't reformed immigration policy since this issue really exploded in March 2006?

This is either extraordinarily facile and addle-minded or totally disingenuous. The reason immigration reform has yet to be achieved is because neither Party has been able to formulate a tenable solution that will successfully get through Congress AND score political points with the electorate.

Ironically, Downes epitomized this political conundrum in his conclusion which offered only a castigation of solutions currently on the table with nary a suggestion of his own:

We are stuck with a bogus, deceptive strategy - a 700-mile fence on a 2,000-mile border to stop a fraction of border crossers who are only 60 percent of the problem anyway, and scattershot raids to capture a few thousand members of a group of 12 million.

None of those enforcement policies have a trace of honesty or realism. At least they don't reward illegals, and that, for now, is all this country wants.

So, Lawrence, if these strategies are so bogus and deceptive, what's the answer?

Sadly, much like most on the left today, his modus operandi is to criticize all options currently being considered without presenting better alternatives. What is it about this iteration of liberals that makes such a deficiency so prevalent?

Maybe even worse, this strategy might have been beneficial for the left when Republicans controlled Congress. As that changed in January, one might have expected less of a defensive posture from Democrats AND from the media that support them.

Unfortunately, those running the 110th Congress have shown themselves to have as little to offer solution-wise as the Times.

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Noel Sheppard's picture