Words matter in immigration debate

The political divide over immigration is wide, and it can be seen clearly in the words people use to describe those at the center of the debate.

The Eagle-Tribune reported on Monday that the deportation push by the Trump administration is creating a climate of fear among the city’s immigrants and driving many of them into hiding. Throughout the article, the targets of Trump’s deportation push are referred to as undocumented immigrants.

A Lowell Sun editorial refers both to undocumented immigrants and illegal immigrants. The editorial asks why it’s good government to check the criminal backgrounds of people applying to be Uber and Lyft drivers but it’s irresponsible, irrational, racist, and dehumanizing to vet “illegal immigrants” to see if they have committed serious crimes.

“If Bay State citizens can be vetted in order to drive for Uber, why can’t undocumented immigrants be subject to the same, equal treatment for living in our neighborhoods?” the editorial asked.

While news outlets have struggled with the best way to describe people who entered this country without going through the formal immigration process, politicians use the words that best fit their needs.

During a panel discussion last week at the UMass School of Law in Dartmouth, the issue bubbled to the surface. Emily Norton, a city councilor in Newton and the Massachusetts director of the Sierra Club, angrily attacked Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson for repeatedly using the term illegal immigrants.

“To call them illegals and treat them like garbage, it’s just not right,” Norton said. “Life is not black and white. This issue is not black and white,” she said, adding that most “undocumented immigrants” in this country are fleeing violence in their home countries caused by the drug trade, which in turn is fueled by drug consumption in the United States.

Hodgson, however, refused to budge. “It’s a crime — no ifs, ands, or buts about it — to come across the border without going through our immigration process. That’s a fact,” he said. “It’s not an insult to say to a person you’re here illegally. You can say undocumented, but the truth is they’re here illegally because they violated the law. I could say a bank robber is an undocumented withdrawer, but the reality is the person committed a crime and it’s illegal.”



Holly Robichaud offers a pointed critique of the opaque House budget process, which begins today with the release of the Ways and Means Committee spending plan. (Boston Herald)

Berkshire lawmakers agree to push for a single-payer health system. (Berkshire Eagle)

Thirteen of the state’s 14 sheriffs sign onto an op-ed calling for an increase in the marijuana excise tax to fund addiction services. (Brockton Enterprise)


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