Stop! That’s Unauthorized!

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


5 thoughts on “Stop! That’s Unauthorized!

  1. LOL yes!! The saddest part of this is my complete and total lack of surprise at the vastness of Trump’s ignorance, and the frequency of his impetuous, knee-jerk actions. “Bull in a china shop” does not begin to convey the utter clumsiness going on here. He deeply insulted Mexico and my own beloved Chicago in his first few days, then painted the entire Muslim population of the world with the same black brush. Yesterday he added Iran and even our good neighbor Australia to that list. I know he’s coming after our “sanctuary cities”, of which my current home of Austin is one.

    I can only hope that the good people in Congress can band together to take back the power that is rightfully theirs, and kick this monster to the curb before he turns the entire world against us.


  2. You would think someone named Donald would get his ducks in order before launching a change in immigration and refugee policy affecting several terrorist-linked countries. The action, even if not unprecedented (Obama did something similar with Iraq in 2011), no doubt took them and most in our government by surprise but also legal travelers who work for international companies. Google was especially incensed for having its green card and H-1B visa employees, curiously known as “Googlars,” stranded in airports. I will think about the Googlars and the inconvenience they suffered next time I’m crawling shoes and belt in hand through a long TSA line.

    Trump needs to realize being president is far more complex than being the boss of Trump Inc. As a boss you don’t care too much if your decisions spark protest. You do what you think you need to do. You accept you will be a walking spittoon. As president, on the other hand, it’s important to be liked, admired, and respected. Machiavelli argues a prince is better off feared than loved, but in this country demeanor counts and the popularity of your actions drives your decisions. How often did Obama gauge the popularity polls before acting (and did nothing)?

    Coming from a family of immigrants, I’m a believer in immigration. But my family, as limited of means as they were, refused to accept any government benefits (or “relief” as welfare was then called). Today, thanks to the goodness of our hearts and willingness to spend the resources of others, immigrants both legal and “unauthorized” receive a range of benefits, from health care to education to apparently even voting rights. Aside from terrorists, criminal elements and the flow of addictive and lethal drugs, such government support is the bottom line issue. Affluent, college-educated people in large urban areas tend to favor open immigration. It doesn’t really affect them economically and they like to feel they are helping the unfortunate. Working class people with lower education levels tend to oppose it. These were the people who, as we know, helped elect Trump. They also want to help the truly unfortunate (and do) but have most to lose from a flood of welfare-supported immigration. Our friend “uncle Milty” Friedman offers a very interesting insight into this question:, and into why immigration may be most beneficial if it’s illegal!


    1. I’m sure there are immigrants who, more from fear than anything else, do not take advantage of most government support. And there’s always the question — who is going to do that hard work if we throw them out. Education is, of course, the exception. Everyone wants their kids to go to school. I think it would be interesting to see what it costs to support the illegals as against native born working poor. Thanks for the link to Uncle Milty.


      1. Cost probably varies by state. California seems to welcome the influx, legal and illegal. The latter may be entitled to benefits if in a so-called sanctuary area, but I don’t know. Neither form of immigration affects or concerns me, and I think Trump’s approach is heavy-handed at best, potentially harmful to many at worst. But I can see the viewpoint of his voters (of which I wasn’t one but who seem to have a legitimate gripe) as well as the rationale for initiating action to get our immigration policies consistent and in order, or at least enforcing the laws already on the books (which the previous regime chose to ignore). Uncle M liked immigration but argued against bad laws that favored one group over another and skewed economic incentives. I don’t think Trump understands any of this, but few do.


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