BALOBESHAYI

African Women Voices

Banning the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’ Won’t Change the Stigma

Ideas

Last week the Associated Press announced that it would ban the term illegal immigrant from its stylebook. They are among many organizations and immigration advocates of late who argue that the term is uncivil, or even defamatory.

(MORE: Immigration Debate: The Problem with the Word “Illegal”)

Whether there is a point in that or not – and quite a few, including immigrants, think there isn’t – the main problem here is a matter of how language works. The idea is that banning “illegal immigrant” will change how people think, that using the term undocumented immigrant will improve the public opinion of the people in question. But it won’t.

The problem is that language dances much more lightly on thought than we often suppose, and in a battle between thought and language, thought has a way of winning out. Words’ meanings, even when crafted to bend away from opinion, drift…

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This entry was posted on 21 November 2014 by in Women.
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