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Ask the White Guy: Is the Term 'Illegal Immigrant' Offensive?

In response to our article "Arizona Gov. Signs Controversial Immigration Bill Into Law," DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti explains why the term "illegal immigrant" should offend any loyal American and how allowing law enforcement to stop Latinos to verify their immigration status is racial profiling.

Luke Visconti's Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Comment:

I've tended to notice more people using undocumented, without papers, noncitizens, etc. Is it rude, racist to say illegal? I'm also curious to know what exactly, or who exactly these illegal immigrants' rights people are fighting for. BTW, I think it is very offensive to compare the fight for the rights of illegals to that of Blacks, which were already citizens. The law states that race cannot be used to make stops. The police will not, and cannot stop you on the street. But truly the most ironic thing about this whole issue is with all of this talk about "rights" there has been very little in regards to responsibility.

Response:

Regarding rights, please refer to the Declaration of Independence. It states that rights come from the creator; governments are formed by people to administer the protection of these rights. Further, the rights are "unalienable" and do not belong exclusively to people with certain documents or within a boundary. These rights are for all people. So, therefore, describing a human being as "illegal" should be offensive to any loyal American. It's more offensive than spitting on someone.

Further, there are an estimated 10 to 16 million undocumented people in this country. Do you think they're here by mistake? They're here because they were needed—and they were allowed to work here without restriction. Do you blame the undocumented, or do you blame the people responsible for the administration of our borders?

In 2006, Newt Gingrich wrote an article for National Review that contained this sentence: "In 2004, there were zero (0) federal enforcement fines imposed on American employers who were breaking the law by hiring people illegally." What Newt doesn't catch is that this is evidence of a conspiracy. People who are here without documents don't have Social Security numbers—they use fake cards or other people's numbers. That means that the federal government collected billions of dollars in Social Security taxes without a corresponding expectation to pay benefits. If the people in the federal government had Italian last names, the FBI would crawl all over this. The people responsible would be prosecuted under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act and the Ill-Gotten Gains would be confiscated. So I agree with you about not hearing enough about "responsibility," but it's not the kind of responsibility you're thinking of.

Follow-up Comment:

Just as an aside; what happens when Mexico finds out someone is an "illegal immigrant" [sic] in their country? You stated that "these people are here because they were needed," etc. and "What Newt didn't catch is that this is evidence of a conspiracy." OK, so be it, maybe it was. Uh, let's try to fix that, maybe by enforcing our own immigration laws? But really, do you think that ALL of the 'Undocumented Workers" paid into Social Security? What it comes down to is that the U.S. has laws, protocol if you will, for people who want to have the same benefits as a U.S. citizen. These people are breaking our own law, and AZ is trying to enforce it. What's happened to hospitals along the border, schools also? Whatever happened to border security? Remember that, please. The security of the U.S. is in danger because we really don't know who's coming into our country. The AZ law does not call out people from Mexico. If a person deserves to get stopped for a traffic violation, and that person doesn't have a driver's license or insurance, or if there is any reasonable suspicion, the officer can inquire about that person's legal status. The officers are being trained, they have consequences if they get out of line. Just take a breather people. Racial profiling?? Get a grip people. According to the '09 Census, 30 percent of AZ's population is Hispanic. These Hispanics are U.S. Citizens or documented, "going through our system." Do you realize the police force it would take to stop somebody and question them if they were "racial profiling." They don't have the time or the resources. Check this out. The only reason we caught the Times Square terrorist Faisal Shahzad is because he became a U.S. Citizen last year. That's what I call border security. Come to this country the right way, or don't come at all.

Ask the White Guy Response:

I didn't say the porous borders we have are a positive thing. I said they constituted a criminal act. I am not a Mexican citizen, so I will not comment on their constitution and how they treat their citizens. The situation speaks for itself; the fences are not for Americans trying desperately to work in Mexico. I completely agree with you about people emigrating here legally. The problem is the current system is dysfunctional—and we have human beings here who need to be treated like human beings (because that's what our founding documents demand of us). I am not comfortable with police arbitrating constitutional rights.

On your other point: Let's say half of the undocumented people working in this country pay into Social Security—they ALL pay sales tax. It amounts to billions of dollars collected … quite a racket. ZERO enforcements as little as six years ago. ZERO. Not even ONE.

This law absolutely promotes racial profiling. They're not concerned about Polish undocumented workers in Arizona. This is all about Mexicans. It's nonsensical to give rhetorical arguments to tangible situations. This law is all about rabble rousing and race baiting. It's hateful and anti-American.