Andrea Mitchell Is Wrong About the Term ‘Illegal Aliens’

COMMENTARY Immigration

Andrea Mitchell Is Wrong About the Term ‘Illegal Aliens’

Sep 6th, 2017 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues – including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been rescinded. Xinhua/Sipa USA/Newscom

In her “reporting" on the ending of the DACA program, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC asserted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was wrong to use the term “illegal alien,” which she deemed both “offensive” and “not correct.” But “illegal alien” is in fact the correct legal term.

In footnote two of federal Judge Andrew Hanen’s February 16, 2015, opinion in which he enjoined the implementation of President Obama’s DAPA program, Hanen explained that he would be using the phrases “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien” interchangeably in his order. While “a certain segment of the population” might find that phrase offensive, “the Court uses this term because it is the term used by the Supreme Court in its latest pronouncement pertaining to this area of the law.”

The U.S. Supreme Court pronouncement that Hanen was referring to was Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012). That case dealt with an Arizona law that, among other things, required state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals they stop, detain, or arrest if they have a reasonable suspicion the individual is in the country illegally. In an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy that was joined by the liberal justices (except for Elena Kagan, who was recused from the case), that particular provision of the Arizona law was upheld, although other provisions were thrown out.

As Judge Hanen says, the Arizona opinion is replete with the term “illegal alien.” It is used close to a dozen times in the main opinion and the concurring (and partial dissents) by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito. In fact, the main opinion cites an official report on “Immigration Enforcement Action: 2010” published by the Department of Homeland Security that discusses the “identification, apprehension, and removal of illegal aliens from the United States” (emphasis added).

The correct legal term is “illegal alien,” despite Andrea Mitchell’s protestations to the contrary. The politically correct term “undocumented immigrant” that she and others insist on using is a made-up term used by progressive groups and media sources to extinguish the line between legal immigrants and illegal aliens. That makes it easier for them to claim that anyone who wants our immigration laws enforced is “anti-immigrant.”

As civil-rights icon Barbara Jordan (who chaired Bill Clinton’s Commission on Immigration Reform) aptly said, “We disagree with those who would label efforts to control immigration as being inherently anti-immigrant. It is both a right and responsibility for a democratic society to manage immigration so it serves the national interest....Unless this country does a better job in curbing illegal immigration, we risk irreparably undermining our commitment to legal immigration.”

This piece originally appeared in National Review