It’s “undocumented” immigrant, not “illegal”!

December 13th, 2010 · 7 Comments

To Whom It May Concern:

It’s “undocumented” immigrant, not “illegal.” As a classmate of mine justly said recently, people can’t be illegal. So I would greatly appreciate it if from now on, we used the term undocumented immigrant when discussing immigration.

I understand that you are frustrated that undocumented immigrants are “taking your jobs,” but the reality is that they are doing the jobs that you will not. I take personal offense to your ignorant and generalizing comments when you say things like this. Although most of my family was able to come to the United States many years ago with visas, today immigration policies make it much more difficult to do so. I have some family members who are undocumented and have already lifted more fingers than you probably ever will. As the ACLU purports, the fact is that immigrants actually have a positive effect on the American economy.

And you think that immigrants should not even bother to be here if they are not making the effort to learn English? First of all, language has nothing to do with the amount that these individuals give back to this country. In actuality, immigrants do believe they need to learn English so that they can make it in the United States, yet sometimes it is not that simple. Latino immigrants specifically assert that they know they need to learn English, and even realize that they may be discriminated against if they don’t. Also, even though many immigrants do want to learn English, as a friend of mine logically pointed out, sometimes these resources are not necessarily available, such as workshops and classes funded by say the government. Let’s not forget one of the many positive attributes of speaking a different language in this diverse country, because were it not for my own Latin heritage, I would have never learned Spanish and been able to assist in bridging the gap between different communities in the U.S.

Weren’t your ancestors immigrants themselves once? And did they not come over with a primary language of their own? Did their simple motivation of having a better life threaten to take jobs away from others? Perhaps, but it seems to me that you are not acknowledging the similarities between immigrants today and immigrants from just a century prior.

It’s not that I’m blind to the validity of some of your points, however far-fetched they may be, but in order to embark on this discussion over immigration, you need to stop making sweeping generalizations. In addition, you need to start looking at outside forces that come into play, such as why these immigrants are coming into the U.S. in the first place. As to what is true versus misconceptions surrounding immigration, the list goes on and on.  I urge you to peruse this link in which the ACLU discusses Immigration Myths and Facts.

Thank you.

Melissa Beatriz Skolnick is currently a graduate student attaining her Master’s in Social Work in Philadelphia. She strives to merge social work and journalism together in order to bring more awareness to various underrepresented communities, as well as to bring light to societal inconsistencies. In addition, she hopes to one day impact society through endeavors such as policy-making, writing through a widespread medium, and speaking to those who are willing to listen.

Tags: ACLU · Economics · Immigration · Latino History

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gunther217 // Dec 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    In court on Dec. 8th, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. used the words “illegal aliens” to describe people who are living illegally in this country.

  • 2 Tweets that mention It’s “undocumented” immigrant, not “illegal”! -- // Dec 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LatinoPolitics, Alex Trillo. Alex Trillo said: ! RT @LatinoPolitics: It's "undocumented" immigrant, not "illegal"! #immigration #lals […]

  • 3 tony herrera // Dec 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm


    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has often used the words “undocumented immigrants” to describe people who are unlawfully living in this country.

    “Illegal Alien” is a nonsensical term, No human being is illegal.

  • 4 irma // Dec 15, 2010 at 10:52 am

    illegal is an adjective meaning unlawful.

    So the term illegal immigrant is correct, although it may necessarily refer to the immigration status of that person. I prefer to use the term undocumented immigrant.

    It is incorrect to refer to a person as an “illegal”.
    This is very bad English.

  • 5 Seneca // Dec 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    I must confess that I have occasionally and thoughtlessly mis-used the term ‘illegal’. It is certainly correct to point out people are not ‘illegal’. But a sizeable number of the so-called ‘undocumented’ population does in fact have some sort of documentation: a consular card, foreign passport with expired visa, drivers license, birth certificate from country of origin, a border crossing card with limited range of travel and even a social security. The problem is none of these documents make their immigration status acceptable or legal in this country. This is not unique to the US. Many countries in the world have similar issues. The challenge to all is how to get the status changed or grant ‘legal’ status with all the appropriate privileges. The fact remains that calling them ‘undocumented’ will not impute or ascribe legal status. Yes, to describe a person as ‘illegal ‘ or refer to him/her as ‘illegal’ is indeed an offense to human dignity. Furthermore, as long as these ‘undocumented’ people fall under our draconian immigration laws they will continue to be deprived of full protection under the law.

  • 6 Jude Soto // Dec 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Well organized with a great change in perspective.

  • 7 Gunther217 // Jan 4, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Following this PC logic, rapists should be called Uninvited Sexual Partners.

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