Up   |  October 07, 2012

Defining, labeling a person by their actions

The Up w/ Chris Hayes panelists continue their discussion on the use of the term "illegal immigrant." Should an illegal act define and label a person?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're having a fascinating conversation. i think it matters a lot not just for this issue, but all the issues we cover. language is so important in how we talk about issues it cuts off certain inquiries and opens other avenues. get press outlets to stop using the term illegal. we don't use illegal immigrant , we use undocumented worker . there's two reasons. one is undocumented workers don't want to be called illegal. i have a general disposition to call people what they want to be called, even when i disagree with them. also, let me read this piece from 2007 , which makes the case that you were making earlier. it's about the inaccuracy of the term. what part of illegal don't you understand. i'm an illegal driver, parker and walker. the offenses were trivial. i feel sure i can endure the punishments and get on with my life. good thing i ime not an illegal immigrant . nothing short of deportation will free you from it. that is the problem. i think there's just an inconsistency with how to apply the adjective with the noun. if the company has a super fun site, we don't say it's illegal.

>> what do you think -- let me ask you this. what do you think, as a linguist, what do you think about the fact. my concern becomes the people do on that term, the number of undocumented people i encounter. they call themselves. i'm like what do we think about that as a country.

>> that complicates things.

>> as a country, where you are saying go ahead and own it. then we are saying, as a country, we are going to allow this phenomena to exist, you are going to have a u.s. citizen children whose parents walk around saying i'm illegal.

>> that term, for those people, means something rather different than what it means for us.

>> yorn. it means powerless, disenfranchised, scared.

>> the queer phenomenon.

>> in terms of illegal driver versus illegal imgranlt. we have to change immigration policy . i understand about the discrimination and problems. but, if you are an illegal immigrant , the idea that some people have that that is more appropriate than illegal driver or illegal gardner, is that if you have immigrated without papers or whatever, while you are in that country that you entered, the fact that you are in it is a state that continues. you are somebody who did come --

>> that's not legally true in this sense. it's not illegal to be in the country. the violation is the coming in, which is illegal. it's also civil offense . it's not illegal just to be here. the violation is the actual discreet moment of entrance. brook?

>> i did not know that. i thought that your status, if you can be apprehended and deported for having come in, it would strike me that you would still be liable if you are --

>> teach people that. teach people it really isn't the fact that --

>> if you can be deported if they get you --

>> you are deported for the entrance.

>> okay.

>> you want to go on the record.

>> i just want to say that i prefer for a wide variety of reasons undocumented immigrant to illegal immigrant . i don't like defining a person as illegal. it feels and seems incorrect. you are not defining the action, you are defining the individual. but, so, i just i want to say that when it comes to issues, political issues, pro-life, pro-choice, i don't like to adopt the terms of the combatants.

>> if being an illegal driver is the same, it's an argument to be made rather than it's quite simple.

>> why it's not the same and i want to talk about what happens when you wage a campaign like this. if you end up creating the conditions in which the people you are waving the campaign against can't let you win, otherwise they look like they are choosing sides right