Stop! That’s Unauthorized!
By Patrick F. Cannon
The Chicago Tribune, that former bastion of conservative Republicanism, has recently taken yet another step in its crusade to never use a word that might accurately describe a person or action if a softer and less accurate one can be found. Thus, we no longer are plagued by “illegal” immigrants, but by “unauthorized” ones.
Before you make the assumption that I’m anti-immigrant, let me assure you that I’m fully in support of legislation to legalize the status of most of the 11 million or so folks who originally crossed our borders on the sly, or overstayed their visas. I’m particularly concerned that we do not punish young people who were brought here as infants or toddlers.
But I am also concerned that we describe things accurately. Believe me, the desperate person from Central America or Mexico who seeks a way across the border with the United States at a place not controlled by customs agents, knows full well that he or she is committing an illegal act, else they would proudly use a controlled crossing point. There are laws specifying who may legally enter the United States as an immigrant; just as there are laws that say you may not murder your neighbor or steal his goods. We do not (at least yet) say that John Doe is accused of the “unauthorized” killing of John Smith.
As anyone who pays attention to immigration matters knows, there are activists who never use the word “illegal” when talking about immigration, and presumably won’t use “unauthorized” either. To them, borders are a construct of the powerful, meant to subjugate the poor and protect the jobs of the native born bigots.
“A world without borders” is a noble sentiment, but recent events in the European Union and elsewhere, including the United States, have demonstrated that some stringent but rational controls may be necessary. But the actions of the Trump administration (announced after I started this piece) have gone beyond the necessary to the absurd. Apparently the one law they failed to recognize was that classic: the law of unintended consequences. Instead of specifying that visa approvals would be suspended effective at a reasonable date, it apparently didn’t occur to the President and his Svengali Bannon that people with valid visas and green cards might actually be enroute. Or maybe they just didn’t care?
So, my quibbles about whether to use “illegal” or “unauthorized” may be frivolous in the current climate. I find myself wondering if New York Times columnist David Brooks may have been pessimistic when he predicted that President Trump would be impeached within a year. Now, even the Republicans who decided they might be able to work with him are having second thoughts, and would certainly prefer Vice President Pence. I’m sure they’re wondering, as I am, what inevitable future egregious action by President Trump would qualify as impeachable. The suspense is killing me.
Copyright 2017, Patrick F. Cannon