Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Vocabulary changes always reflect the agendas of a political debate.
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The fight over illegal immigration plays out by altering words and their meanings. Take the traditional rubric “illegal alien.” The English has been clear and exact for nearly a century: illegal alien (cf. Latin alienus) was a descriptive term for any foreigner who crossed the US border without coming through customs to obtain proper legal sanction.
Illegal alien, then, was a politically neutral, exact, and descriptive term: one used by both the Supreme Court and Internal Revenue Service.
But open-borders advocates did not like the adjective and noun because they accurately emphasized both illegality and the foreignness
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