Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Undocumented," " Illegal," or "PHU"?


            One of the most compelling examples of the power of language to shape political thought is the terms used in the immigration debate.  To many liberals, the required term is “undocumented;” after all, “illegal immigrant” seems to imply a tarring of the person’s entire existence. For many conservatives, “undocumented” sounds far too mushy; after all, it isn’t as if the papers are merely misplaced.

            I suggest an entirely new term (just as most moderate commentators have jettisoned the tendentious “pro life” and “pro choice” in the abortion debate).  What is needed is a term that both sides could accept.  In 21st century America, acronyms are all the rage (Did your kids watch a DVD in your SUV on the way to KFC?).  Here’s a modest suggestion:  We should refer to an immigrant who is in the country without having followed legal procedures to be a “PHU” (pronounced “foo,” for “person here unlawfully”).  Perhaps both sides would accept a reasoned debate over national policy concerning PHUs.


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