The Lawrence Downes column about the denigration inherent in the “illegal immigrant” tag, cited here on Oct. 28, prompted several letters in today’s NYTimes. Almost all of the writers rejected Downes’ argument (which I support), and the tone of the letter-writers struck me by the focus on a rather puritanical legalism. (Forgive me for denigrating the Puritans.) One typical excerpt:
“The word ‘illegal’ is not a dirty word. It is to the point and honest, as it spells out the obvious difference in this case between those who are here lawfully and those who are not. To suggest that it is a ‘code word for racial and ethnic hatred’ is disingenuous at best and only adds fuel to the fire. It has been used over and over in an attempt to stifle honest discussion on this topic as well as on a range of others. We need an honest debate. Let’s keep the question of race out of it.”
Debating “illegal immigration” without realizing the racial and ethnic implications strikes me a disingenuous.