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Can We Replace “Illegal Immigrants?”

July 21, 2012
Plain English Version

Let us say, for example, you are a Mexican national working in the United States. You came to the U.S. on a work visa that expired one year ago. What is the best way to describe your situation? Pick one from Column A and one word from Column B.

Let us say you are a Guatemalan national living in the U.S. You entered the U.S. over the Texas-Mexico border without any entry documents. What is the best way to describe your situation? Pick one word from Column A and one word from Column B.

There is no correct answer. For the most part U.S. media calls all the people in this country who lack legal status: “Illegal Immigrants.” Many find this phrase offensive. It suggests that someone is guilty who has never been charged with a crime or offense.

Which is the phrase you prefer?

         A                                                                        B

 removable                                                                alien

 unauthorized                                                          migrant

 illegal                                                                       immigrant

 out of status                                                            individual

undocumented                                                        person

without papers                                                        resident

your suggestion                                                       your suggestion

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