Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Undocumented worker" BS

Yes, it's time once again for one of those posts which will no-doubt be ridiculed for being "racially insensitive" and not PC. Seriously, though, we need to find a better term to describe people who are in the country illegally, working or not, with or without the intention to "immigrate" permanently (and by that, I mean establish roots in the US). This article talks about settlements for workplace injuries for illegal workers, which is not by itself offensive (although getting a $2.5 million payout seems pretty ridiculous); however, referring to people in the country illegally as simply "undocumented workers" is stupid and potentially inflammatory.

Why is it dumb? Well, it's kinda like claiming I'm the uninnaguated President of the United States. The description of "undocumented" is intentionally misleading: the implication is that other than some simple paperwork, they would be normal workers. The term "illegal alien" is more technically accurate, but many people in the US illegally do legitimate work which many people tacitly approve of, so that might be too harsh a term. The "illegal" term also doesn't indicate the level of criminal activity, and "alien" sounds weird to many people; I could see the argument for toning down the language when referring to people who are basically trying to do the same thing the people who originally immigrated to the US were striving for: a chance to work for your own prosperity.

Seriously, though, we need a better term to use in the mainstream media (not that they would, but hypothetically). I'm not sure what the right term would be, but maybe we could start with "foreign trespasser", and refine from there; "undocumented" is just BS.


  1. "Undocumented worker" correctly describes the undesirable condition in which someone works here illegally and everyone involved agrees to look the other way and ignore the law. IMHO we should get rid of "undocumented workers". There should be a national debate in which we work out how we want to handle foreigners who wish to work here. I think we should be liberal about letting people in, so we would be granting permission to many of the people who are here illegally. But whatever we decide we should enforce, even if it's something I disagree with. The enforcement should be strict enough that it's not worthwhile for employers to employ people who are not authorized to work here. Simply looking the other way, and even creating words to indicate we're looking the other way, erodes respect for the law.

  2. I totally agree CJ, even about the liberal about letting people in part. I think there's certainly a place, particularly in a country founded on the premise that the pursuit of happiness (as opposed to the handout of happiness from the nanny state) is a fundamental right which should be protected by the government, for people who just want to have a chance to work hard to achieve prosperity. It's nice to see that at least some people on both sides of the political spectrum can agree on some issues. :)

  3. Nick: I like that term, "foreign trespasser." It's not hostile, weird or ignorant. What complaint could the PC crowd find with it? And CJ makes a good point about allowing foreigners in to work. The living here illegally part still needs to be worked out though.

    Nice blog by the way.