The other day, on his weekday broadcast, Dennis Prager mentioned that it is politically incorrect to refer to anyone as an illegal alien. The “in” term is now undocumented workers.
I am appalled by the use of politically correct verbiage because those terms are inaccurate, and more often tend to obfuscate issues that need to be crystallized in the minds of the public.
As a child growing up there was no stigma in being short. I was 4’3” when I became a bar mitzvah at age 13. At my tallest I stood 5’7.5” and now sadly I am shrinking. Today short is considered a contemptible term. I am told that I should have been described as vertically challenged. Being vertical has never been a challenge to me. I stand and sit as desired. Being vertically challenged, it would seem to me, would be more appropriate for those destined to wheel chairs.
Similarly, I have met good friends from South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. Not one of them would be considered an African American, although all are. African American is the current euphemism for what in the past has been called, colored, Negro or black. Not one of my foreign born African American associates is black.
To refer to an illegal alien as an undocumented worker belies reality. The issue with having illegal aliens is that their presence points to porous nature of the American borders, which in turn reflects our country’s inability to protect itself. If millions can flock into the United States on foot or swim the Rio Grande, how secure are we as a people?
The term undocumented workers also brings to light issues. In a country still recovering from recession, and still dealing with high unemployment rates; can we allow in millions of undocumented workers? Should we treat them with all the privileges of taxpayers and citizens? There is a reason there are laws about immigration on the books. Quotas are there on purpose, not to be flouted for political gain.
Moreover, the term undocumented workers seems a bit of a negative term from the outset. It is very reminiscent of the term “without papers,” which was shortened to wop, and negatively described the vast Italian immigration of decades ago. To call an Italian American a wop is disgusting. Luckily it is hard to imagine an acronym arising from undocumented worker to describe the Latin Americans now flooding the country, even as all know which group of undocumented workers is being referred to.
From the Jewish perspective, there is a bit of conflict. Jews are duty bound to be kind to strangers, as our people were once strangers in Egypt. That thought is oft reported in the Torah.
Yet at the same time, as a group we also recognize the need to protect our own from all outside adversaries. Jewish law uses the term hasagat gvul, breaking boundaries, when describing the infringement of a business on a territory already organized by an existing entity. If such a concept exists for businesses, does it not also apply to nation states?
Finally, in an era where we see Europeans joining ISIS and supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, one might worry about the ease with which they can come to our country as a fifth column with legitimate papers in their possession. One must also wonder how easily swarthy men and women from the Middle East could join the ranks of South Americans guided by coyote’s across the southern frontier.
Whether called illegal aliens or undocumented workers, there are issues at stake to be monitored. Changing terms does nothing to resolve them.