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The undocumented aren't 'aliens' -- but they aren't 'immigrants' either

To the editor: Jose Antonio Vargas is absolutely correct that no one should be called an "alien" — or "illegal immigrant," for that matter. People aren't "illegal"; only their actions can be thus defined. ("Jose Antonio Vargas: I'm not an 'alien,'" Op-Ed, Aug. 13)

But what about "immigrant"? Is a person who deliberately evades America's immigration process truly an "immigrant"? And what does that say about all the immigrants who abide by our legally established immigration process? What are they, "fools"? I hope not.

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Immigration terminology needs correction, and not just the "alien" part.

Howard Hurlbut, Redlands

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To the editor: Vargas overlooks an important point: We are a nation of laws. Just because Vargas' family apparently chose to violate U.S. immigration law and bring him to the United States from the Philippines as a child does not qualify him for citizenship.

I have traveled to the Philippines and stayed at the Bay View Hotel in Manila, across the street from the U.S. Embassy. Every day I saw huge lines of people waiting to get visas. There is a legal path to emigrate and to get citizenship, but Vargas' family chose to take a shortcut — an illegal one.

The Webster's definition of the word "alien" reads, "An unnaturalized foreign resident of another country." Unless Vargas has taken steps to naturalize, I will call him an alien.

Jeanette Jones, Eagle Rock

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To the editor: As a former "alien," I did not find the term disrespectful or degrading. Rather, I viewed it as another example of American misuse of language, and another indication that America sees itself as the center of the universe.

Throughout the years of getting visas, green cards and finally citizenship, my comment was always this: "I'm not an alien; I'm a foreigner. I'm not from Mars; I'm from Toronto."

Julie Atherton, Tustin

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To the editor: I am starting to find it offensive and am feeling dehumanized being called an American citizen, when those not legally in this country get many of the benefits that those of us who follow the law and are here legally are entitled to.

Rather than being called an American citizen, I think "chump" would be more appropriate.

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Elie Chouinard, Moreno Valley

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