August 27, 2012
The May 26 oral arguments for the Arizona SB 1070 case before the U.S. Supreme Court were notable for theuse of the correct immigration law terminology for aliens unlawfully present in the United States.
Justice Alito and Roberts both used the term “illegal alien” once. Justice Sotomayor used the same “illegal alien” term eight times in questioning Solicitor General Verrilli. Justice Scalia used the term “illegal immigrant” once.
The U.S. Solicitor General, arguing on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, exclusively used the term “unlawfully present alien” eleven times, and “unlawfully present person” once.
Although Senate President Harry Reid has urged the use of the term “undocumented Americans,” and various professional journalist organizations and law professors have promoted the politically correct but legally misleading term “undocumented alien,” those terms were avoided by all the Justices and the Solicitor General, as well as the State of Arizona’s attorney, Paul Clement.
IRLI considers the terms “illegal alien” and “unlawfully present alien” to be the two correct and codeterminous phrases under U.S. immigration law.
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