Friday, December 18, 2009

Illegal Verbage

What does the word illegal mean?

Roget's Thesaurus provides a number of words to describe it:

lawlessness; illicitness; breach of law, violation of law, infraction of the law; disobedience, unconformity, arbitrariness, antinomy, violence, brute force, despotism, outlawry. hope, mob law, lynch law, club law, Lydford law, martial law, drumhead law; coup
illegality, informality, unlawfulness, illegitimacy, bar sinister, trover and conversion[Law]; smuggling, poaching; simony, [person who violates the law] outlaw, bad man, offend against the law; violate the law, infringe the law, break the law; set the law at defiance, ride roughshod over, drive a coach and six through a statute; ignore the law, make the law a dead letter, take the law into one's own hands.
smuggle, run, poach.

when a newspaper like USA Today or The New York Times uses the word illegal to describe a DREAMer, they are using the word inappropriately; because DREAMers are not lawless, or illicit, or disobedient, or violent. Being undocumented is a misdemeanor offense, it is not a criminal offense.

In the United States there are no illegal students. According to a Supreme Court ruling, all students, regardless of residency status, can legally attend a school or university.



Ask USAToday: What Do You Mean By "Illegal Students?"

Targeting: Heidi Zimmerman (Communications Director (USA Today)) and Alex Nicholson (Media Relations (USA Today))

Started by: Prerna Lal

Would a truly reputable national newspaper use the N-word to describe African-Americans or refer to the LGBT community as 'fags' and excuse it is just "company policy?"

I doubted it. But the USA Today has done something similar.

On December 15, USA Today ran an article titled "Groups try to delay deportations of illegal students," in which they called young immigrant students in the United States "illegal students."

Appalling, isn't it? I get the "illegal immigrant" euphemism because that slur is familiar. But just what exactly is an "illegal student?"

USA Today reporter, Emily Bazar (, says she is just following company policy when she labels young immigrants without papers as "illegal students." See the email where she justifies her actions by implicating that even the National Council of La Raza agrees with the usage of the word.

Erin Rosa from Campus Progress lays a must-read snarky smackdown on USA Today for using the term "illegal student" especially since it is almost impossible to be one in the United States

The proper words are undocumented and unauthorized in reference to immigrants. Even the Supreme Court gets it nowadays due to the influence of Judge Sotomayor and calls us "undocumented immigrants." In fact, calling people ‘illegal' is the real euphemism.

The use of the word illegal to describe young people seeking the right to stay in the United States speaks volumes about the absurdity of labeling out-of-status human beings as "illegal." But no student and no human being can be illegal.

I am asking you to stand up with me. Don't be afraid and do not let anyone label you, your family, friends, students and an entire community of disenfranchised people as "illegal."

1. Sign the petition below to tell USA Today to stop competing with our archaic immigration system and get with the program. No human being can be illegal.

2. After that, start tweeting, digging, sending it to your friends and cross-posting this to your blogs.

3. And calls are important. Fill their voicemail boxes up! Demand to know what USA Today means by the label "illegal student"

Heidi Zimmerman
7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108
(703) 854-5304

Alex Nicholson
7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108

Brent Johns,
Accuracy Editor

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