The AP Gives Up "Illegal Immigrant"

Flickr/Emilio Labrador

The Associated Press, whose stylebook is used by lots of different publications, has announced that it will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant." This essentially accepts the argument that advocates for immigrants have been making for some time, namely that the fact that someone immigrated illegally doesn't make them an illegal person, any more than the fact that you got a speeding ticket means you should be labelled an "illegal driver," despite your violation of the law. Unsurprisingly, conservatives were contemptuous of the AP.

The Women Behind the Wheel

A look into the life of female cab drivers in New York City, the last story in a three-part series.

Dolores Benitez

A look into the life of female cab drivers in New York City, the second in a three-part series.

Men at Work

A look into the life of Latino construction workers in New York City, the second in a three-part series.

Sujatha Fernandes

A look into the life of Latino construction workers in New York City, the first in a three-part series.

The Motorbike Diaries

Tom D. Wu

It’s 11 a.m. on a brisk Friday morning. In the middle of a short block of 40th Road, just off Main Street in Queens, where colorful signs stand out against the densely packed four-story buildings, a handful of Chinese delivery workers dismount from their motorbikes. The dry pavement here is a welcome sight; much of the downtown area was buried under a foot of snow earlier in the week. The men, dressed in sneakers, blue jeans and puffy jackets, gather in a circle at one of the few empty parking spots.

The Fundamentals of Immigration Reform

The United States, with more than 40 million foreign-born, a number that includes the estimated 11 million illegal residents, is not just the largest immigration player in the world; it’s larger than the next four largest players combined. Because immigration amounts to social engineering, how well we do it has profound consequences for huge swaths of our society, from education to health care to economic growth to foreign relations. Most important, how a country treats its immigrants is a powerful statement to the world about its values and the principles by which it stands.

The Once and Future Gov

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

America’s most futuristic governor seems borne back ceaselessly into the past these days. As he shows me around his office on a crisp winter morning, California Governor Jerry Brown points out not just the desk that his father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, used during his own term as governor from 1959 to 1967 but also photos of his grandparents and his great-grandfather, who came to California in the gold rush years. “He knew John Sutter,” Brown says. The only two governors in the past half-century who were native Californians, he points out, were he and his father.

Be Like Janet, Dammit

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Speaking about the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego, California on Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano assured the audience that "the border is secure ... I believe it is a safe border," an assessment she reprised yesterday in a Senate hearing on immigration reform. "I often hear the argument that before reform can move forward we must first secure our borders, but too often the ‘border security first’ refrain simply serves as an excuse for failing to address the underlying problems," Napolitano said. "Our borders have, in fact, never been stronger."

If He's For It, I'm Against It

(AP Photo/Tim Sloan, Pool)

Over the past few years, folks like me have pointed out many times that Republicans have, almost as one, changed their minds on the wisdom of a number of important policies, for no apparent reason other than the fact that Barack Obama embraced them. The most notable ones are "cap and trade," which used to be a conservative way to harness the power of markets to address climate change, but then became a sinister government power grab to force everyone to huddle in the cold as the useless solar panels on their roofs provided only enough power to run a tiny hotplate; and the individual health insurance mandate, which used to be a Heritage Foundation-crafted idea to use the power of markets to achieve universal private insurance coverage and avoid single-payer health care, then became the greatest threat to freedom the world has seen since Joseph Stalin was laid to rest.

Yet for all the (deserved) ridicule, there's something almost rational lying underneath these changes in position. While it's true that the individual mandate was born at the Heritage Foundation, it isn't as though more than a few conservatives had particularly strong feelings about it prior to 2009. By now, of course, they've had lots of time to consider it, so they should be able to see clearly what it is and isn't. But as a general matter, the less you've thought about an issue, the more your partisan attachments should function as a heuristic to help you decide what you believe. After all, if you're a conservative, Barack Obama does indeed have different values than you on many matters, and if he is for something, there's at least a fair chance that, if you had all the time and information in the world, you'd decide you're against it.

Which brings me to an interesting poll the Washington Post just released, in which they tested people's opinions on four issues, but randomly assigned respondents to hear a particular position described with and without Barack Obama's name attached to it. The results were pretty striking:

Darrell Issa's Tight Spot

AP Photo/Nelvin Cepeda, Pool

Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the status of the undocumented produced a united front of Republican support for legalizing those immigrants, but not allowing them to become citizens. Well, an almost united front.

The Real Debate over Citizenship

Flickr/Aaron Webb

Sometimes we have a national conversation without realizing it. We talk about different aspects of the same larger issue without connecting the dots.

Citizens? They Want to Be Citizens?



House Republicans convened their first hearing on immigration reform on Tuesday and made clear that they were scared to death of immigrants actually getting the vote. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia set the tone when he made clear he was looking for a mid-range position somewhere between deporting and granting citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. A nice, safe legal “resident” status, he suggested, never to be upgraded to that of citizen and voter.

Can Conservatives Change How They Talk about Immigrants?

For many years, it's been obvious that conservatives do a better job of manipulating language than liberals, not only because they seem good at coming up with new terms to describe things, but more importantly because once they decide on a new term, they very quickly get everyone on their side to use it. One of the classic examples is how they took the "estate tax," with its evocation of a white-haired gentleman named something like Winthrop Flipperbottom III sipping brandy from a gigantic snifter while petting his afghan hound as he looks over the vast gardens of his estate, and renamed it the "death tax," which evokes a cruel IRS agent bursting in on your family mourning the death of your beloved uncle and making off with his lovingly amassed collection of vintage baseball cards. You will never, ever hear a conservative call the tax anything but the "death tax," because they all understand the utility of language. How much these kind of linguistic efforts really affect the outcome of policy conflicts is debateable, and the left certainly tries to do the same thing, but few people would argue that over the past twenty or thirty years the right hasn't been far better at it. It doesn't happen by accident—there are people who come up with the new words and phrases, people who test them in surveys and focus groups, people who work to spread them, and then all the people who reinforce them with frequent use. It's a system, and it works very well.

All of which makes it so odd that it has taken until now for conservatives to realize that they have a real language problem, and what they really need is a little of the political correctness they've so despised in the past. As Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic explains, not only are Republicans telling each other to shut up about the whole "legitimate rape" thing, but some of them are urging a change in how they talk about immigration...

The Wrong Kind of Immigration Spending

AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Robert Sutton

The Republican party's abysmal performance among Latino voters in the 2012 election, and the ensuing realization among many in the GOP that they need to change their stance on immigration or risk more defeats, have made it a real possibility that passage of the first comprehensive immigration reform bill in over a quarter-century could happen soon. The debate will no doubt be intense, so as it begins, some facts about the recent and not-so-recent history of immigration in America will be important to keep in mind.

Why "Make Them Learn English" Is the Key to Immigration Reform

New Americans taking the oath of citizenship. (Flickr/Grand Canyon NPS)

Among the provisions in the immigration reform proposal released by a bipartisan group of senators yesterday was a requirement that in order to get on that path to citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to "learn English and civics." They don't detail exactly how it would happen, but presumably there'd be a test of English proficiency immigrants would have to pass, and perhaps some money appropriated for English classes. There are two things to know about this idea. First, in practical terms it's completely unnecessary. And second, in political terms it's an excellent idea. In fact, it could be the key to passing immigration reform.

Invisible Workers, Global Struggles


Like countless other migrant girls toiling far from home, her life was invisible—except for the chilling way it ended. Earlier this month, Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan migrant in Saudi Arabia, was executed after being convicted of killing a baby in her care. The case drew international condemnation not only because of the severe punishment and opacity of the legal proceedings—she was reportedly just 17 at the time, not 23 as her falsified passport indicated, and advocates said her confession had been coerced—but also because the girl’s brief life exposed the consequences of the invisible struggles facing domestic workers in the Middle East and beyond.