Undocumented Workers? Cheeessssh ...
I was listening to NPR's Day to Day on the way home this afternoon. One of the stories had to do with the semantics of illegal aliens. Interesting ... you know you're dealing with a hot potato when one of the parties, usually the one perceived to be on the wrong side of the issue, starts trying to bludgeon you with how you're abusing semantics.
Apparently illegal aliens, and their advocates, are taking exception with the term illegal aliens - it somehow seems to make it seem like they don't belong here, and otherwise diminishes their humanity, or something like that. I found this especially curious inasmuch as my wife is a "legal alien". I don't hear about the "legal aliens" getting up in arms over being called aliens. But the inference, per one of those interviewed for this piece, is that somehow we're equating illegal aliens with monsters as we all know that aliens are something that come from the Zed quadrant in the Crab Nebula. But apparently it's only the illegal ones that are monsters.
My understanding was that the term "alien" denotes someone who wasn't a citizen of the place that they happen to be residing in at the time. The adjective "illegal" as applied to alien would mean a person who isn't a citizen of their place of residence who managed to get there by means other than legal ones. What's so demeaning about this? I mean to me it's perfectly descriptive and totally apropos.
Then someone else is interviewed, some professor who, along with his students, tracked all the metaphors used to write about "illegal aliens" in, if I remember correctly, LA. Apparently when you use the word "ferret" to talk about pursuing illegal aliens, e.g. "They were working to ferret out the illegal aliens in Pasadena Country", what you're inferring is that you see illegal aliens as rats or rodents since that's what ferrets like to chase after. I swear it makes one begin to regret any time spent building a vocabulary or leery about ever using a thesaurus - God only knows what you're supposedly actually saying when you use more than a 9th grade vocabulary to describe something.
Of course the problem now is what should you call "illegal aliens"? There's still some controversy over this, though you'll be happy to know that the President is in tune with the new term "undocumented worker" - but of course G.W. knows a large voting block when he sees one, and he also appreciates how "undocumented workers" are good for his business buddies. I happened to visit www.illegalaliens.us where I read the following:
"Calling an illegal alien an undocumented immigrant is like calling a burglar an uninvited house guest."
Well, I have to admit, that does seem to hit the nail on the head.
They're aliens because they're not citizens, they're illegal because they got here illegally regardless of however much I may sympathize with their reasons for coming here, and that's that. Now what to do about them well that's something else all together and a name change, i.e. from illegal alien, a.k.a. undocumented immigrant, to "guest worker" won't really solve the problem.