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Is Illegal Alien or Illegal Immigrant\Resident a Slur Term?

Updated on July 6, 2012

For many, a slur word is derogatory, like using "wetback" to define an illegal immigrant who arrived across the border via illegally. The word illegal implies that they are criminals. But, are they criminals of the same class as a drug dealer? rapist? pedophile? murderer? I don't think so. They are not criminals in the criminal system, only in the lesser category of civil law, like, when you promise to pay a speeding ticket, yet fail to, or staying in the US after your Visa expired.

Using the word "illegal alien or immigrant" can also be looked upon as a simple statement of fact. The person crossed the border in some way other than going through official methods, therefore, he has no proper documentation and is thus, illegal. The are immigrants and are aliens (non-citizens). Some think the term is a hateful word. Well, okay, it is America and people have the freedom of expression.

The U.S. Supreme Court said this, "As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States." The court also ruled that it was not a crime to seek or engage in unauthorized employment. True, not a crime under the Criminal Code, but it is under the Civil Code, which is seldom enforced much, so the Court was correct. In a study of news reports in a ten year period, journalists used the terms "illegal alien or immigrant" 89% of the time.

So, why do some Hispanics think it is a slur? It is certainly better and more accurate than "wetback". It is what it is, an accurate description of their status. Maybe they are simply getting a little overly sensitive about it. Its not like they do not know its illegal. They all know the consequences of getting caught - deported back home so they can try again!


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      You make many valid points that I agree with. Even those on welfare can be productive, they just don't make a lot money so they need help.

    • hijadeeldios profile image

      hijadeeldios 5 years ago from New York

      I enjoyed your view on this delicate subject. We have all heard the derogatory words for both "Americans and non-Americans" and frankly I believe that we choose to be offended. However I do believe there are people that intend to insult with these words. I am proud to be a Gringa. In fact I refer to myself as a Gringa a lot with the men I work with whom happen to be from Mexico. They think its funny but I guess to each his own. However when some one breaks the law by coming here without proper documentation they would be considered a law breaker or in another word, a criminal. With that being said I believe that we can all fall under that category in a sense. If we have ever exceed the speed limit, if we have ever taken something from work great or small, or if we have ever been dishonest with our government by not declaring additional income. Granted I understand that we don't all do these things, but I think all of us licensed drivers have sped intentionally or unintentionally, when no one was looking. Just because we were not caught does not mean we did not break the law. In typing this I can see the opinion of "well those are different those are not really big things". True there are different degrees of the law however it's still the law and if you break it you then are technically a criminal, by definition. Regardless I believe the bigger issue would be immigration reform. We as "Americans" get really protective of our stuff and we are quick to complain about the "outsider". Might I remind that unless your ancestors are all of Indian decent then you too technically fall in that category. I am also tired of the stereotype of "they come here and live on welfare" I have yet to meet a person from a foreign country living here and doing so on welfare, not to say it doesn't happen, I just have no witness to it. Reform starts with a solution offered rather than a complaint from an ill-educated mind. I could go on but I think I will in my own hub soon to come. @perrya thank you for sharing!

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Had not heard that before, true.

    • profile image

      Paul 5 years ago

      They are breaking the law. I think we should call them what they are, foreign criminals.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      So very true! I have no problemo with Hispanic roots.

    • FGual profile image

      FGual 5 years ago from USA

      The eternal issue. One thing that really irks me is that so many Americans know little of their own history. American history and Hispanic history in the new world were intertwined from the beginning. St. Augustine was the first European settlement in America, but the first Hispanic settlement in America is more accurate. Florida was a Hispanic colony for hundreds of years. From Texas to California, the southwest was part of the Spanish empire for a long time, so like it or not, America has Hispanic roots.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      I agree with all, and happy for wetbaknproud for becoming a US citizen and having some success. Also, what he states is most true, how you say a word is always important.

    • billd01603 profile image

      billd01603 5 years ago from Worcester

      Very good Hub. Voted "interesting" and up. The term "Illegal Aliens" is certainly better than "undocumented residents" "Illegal aliens" perfectly discribes the situation.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 5 years ago

      Interesting hub to say the least. To my knowledge, every country in the world attempts to keep track of who is entering their country, and dislikes illegal entry. Even Mexico has laws regarding illegal entry and residence status in their country. Yet here in this country a comment regarding those who are living here illegally will get you labelled a bigot, prejudiced, and any number of things for the same reason. Nobody would like people from another country moving in and setting up tents in their front yard without permission. Yet to make a remark about the thousands who live here illegally makes you a bad person in the eyes of many. Many Hispanics refer to Caucasians as "Gringo's." If you do a Google search on the word "Gringo," you will find sites declaring this a derogatory term, and other sites declaring this as just a way to refer to someone from North America. Any term can be viewed either way depending on the context of the conversation.

      I grew up in Arizona and have a great many friends of Spanish decent. Among friends, the word "Gringo" is a friendly term used often in conversation. Yet from a stranger, the word "Gringo" could be taken as a derogatory insult.

      The word illegal in regards to those who are here without permission is correct. They broke the law entering this country illegally.

    • wetbaknproud profile image

      wetbaknproud 5 years ago from new jersey

      people are over sensitive, in a normal conversation if you are not watching what you say you can offend many people,I think mainly it's not what is said but how it's said and what the intention is . I for one wear my title of wetback as a badge of honor,because the fact that today I am a US citizen does not make me a better person, I am the same person I was when I was illegal.I have had a full time job since I was 17 years old, worked hard all my life , never even been accused of commiting any sort of criminal activity, never lived off the government, raised four children who know that if you are not a rich person there are two things nobody can take away from you , your education, what you learn and your good name and reputation.