Commentary: On being the ‘illegal’ immigrant

I’m off to the Garda office on the Quays to become a ‘legal’ immigrant in Ireland.  The last time I was there an immigration officer called me an ‘illegal’ immigrant, a popular term used to describe undocumented people in the U.S.

The term ‘illegal’, however, is misleading. In the U.S., for example, it’s not a criminal offense to be an undocumented person.  It’s a civil offense.  To call a person ‘illegal’, therefore, is like calling someone a criminal before their trial has even started.  It’s also worth nothing that if a 20 year old person is drinking in the U.S., they’re hardly ever labeled a ‘criminal’, but rather an underage drinker.  In essence, they’re not an ‘illegal drinker’.

The term ‘illegal’ dehumanizes and marginalizes people.  It should be eradicated from our vocabulary when describing people. No human being can be illegal on their own planet.

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